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Researchers from Harvard University create programmable Biofilm that can self-assemble

Biofilms are communities of bacteria ensconced in a matrix of slimy, but extremely tough, extracellular material composed of sugars, proteins, genetic material, and more. Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering Neel Joshi and his team wanted to give them a face lift, and developed a novel protein-engineering system called BIND to do so.

A newly published study details how researchers at Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University are using bio-films to create self-healing materials and other technologies.

The research study, reveals how advances in our understanding of bacterial systems in the past century have spurred researchers to utilize new opportunities to develop biofilms as a synthetic biological platform for self-assembling functional materials.

Synthetic biology researchers aim to engineer cells with novel biological functions. These cells are used to create larger bio-film systems which can be programmed. They utilize synthetic gene networks such as genetic toggle switches, to change their color, shape, etc.

Such bio-inspired approaches to materials production has been demonstrated, using self-assembling bacterial bio-film materials that can be programmed for specific functions, such as substrate adhesion, nano-particle fabrication, and protein immobilization. 

Researchers hope to achieve important advances in artificial life by creating bio-molecules and their component materials. They use these synthetic life experiments to attempt to either probe the origins of life, study some of the properties of life, or more ambitiously to recreate life from non-living (abiotic) components.

Researchers are attempting to create new biological molecules and even novel living species capable of carrying out a range of important medical and industrial functions.

These can range from manufacturing pharmaceuticals to detoxifying polluted land and water. Even researchers in the field of medicine say it offers prospects of using designer biological parts as a starting point for an entirely new class of therapies and diagnostic tools.

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