Some types of bacteria produce cellulose – a bendy material that’s incredibly versatile. By controlling the supply of oxygen to aerobic bacteria, bacterial cellulose can be 'grown' on demand in the lab – either in massive slabs, or more intricate designs. This ear shape, for example, was grown inside a special 3D-printed mould lined with tiny beads that let oxygen through to the bacteria sloshing around inside. When oxygen meets the surface of the bacterial solution, the bacteria can get to work – filling all the intricate gaps and channels with cellulose. Because it’s a 'living' material, chunks of bacterial cellulose can knit together after popping out of their mould. The material is friendly to living tissues, so there are big plans for the technology – from designing implants and dressings for wounds, to artificial blood vessels – all built by bugs.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.