Science

3D-printed live bacteria creates world's first "living tattoo"

3D-printed live bacteria creat...
Researchers used a 3D-printed patch of bacteria cells to create a "living tattoo" that changes color in the presence of certain chemical stimuli
Researchers used a 3D-printed patch of bacteria cells to create a "living tattoo" that changes color in the presence of certain chemical stimuli
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Researchers used a 3D-printed patch of bacteria cells to create a "living tattoo" that changes color in the presence of certain chemical stimuli
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Researchers used a 3D-printed patch of bacteria cells to create a "living tattoo" that changes color in the presence of certain chemical stimuli
The team hypothesize a future for the technique could be as a novel drug delivery system
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The team hypothesize a future for the technique could be as a novel drug delivery system

A team at MIT has genetically modified bacteria cells and developed a new 3D printing technique to create a "living tattoo" that can respond to a variety of stimuli.

Electronic tattoos and smart ink technologies are showing exciting potential for reframing how we think of wearable sensor devices. While many engineers are experimenting with a variety of responsive materials the MIT team wondered if live cells could be co-opted into a functional use.

The first step was to look at what organic cells could be utilized, and it turned out that the strong cell walls of bacteria were the best target for use as they could survive the force of a 3D printer's nozzle. Bacteria also proved to be perfectly compatible with the hydrogels needed for accurate 3D printing.

To test out the technique the team created a 3D-printed patch of bacteria cells on an elastomer layer designed to resemble a tree. The bacteria in each branch of the tree was engineered to respond to a different chemical stimuli. When the patch was tested on a human hand that had been applied with different target chemicals the bacteria successfully illuminated its branches when sensing the corresponding chemical.

The team hypothesize a future for the technique could be as a novel drug delivery system
The team hypothesize a future for the technique could be as a novel drug delivery system

The ultimate outcomes for the technology are incredibly futuristic, with the team suggesting the technique could conceivably lead to the development of a kind of "living computer." Complex structures could be created that contain many different types of engineered cells that communicate with each other in the same way as transistors on a microchip.

"This is very future work, but we expect to be able to print living computational platforms that could be wearable," say Hyunwoo Yuk, a graduate student at MIT and one of the co-authors on the study.

More immediate, pragmatic uses include the development of warning stickers that contain cells engineered to respond to a certain environment or chemical stimuli, or health-monitoring wearables that activate signals in accordance with a specific temperature or pH change.

The study was published in the journal Advanced Materials.

Take a closer look at the technology in the video below.

Source: MIT

3D Printing of Living Responsive Materials and Devices

5 comments
Jean Lamb
I'm sensing some scientists who watched MOANA and thought those tattoos of Maui were cool, myself. <G>
Username
This is interesting but it is not a tattoo. A band-aid with a printed image is also not a tattoo. Words mean things.
CharlieSeattle
Nail Polish that changes color would be a hit.
Penguin
The world of strobing mauve and orange people is nigh!
ljaques
I'm curious to see how these will be used. Not too many things can wait for an overnight message, unless they are triggered by bodily malfunctions, so they may be limited to long-term flagging of cancers or other major disease existence or spread.