Tue, 18/02/2020 - 14:15
Campus SB, Building E2 9 Room 0.07

Dr. Shrikrishnan Sankaran
Host: Dr. Hendrik Hähl

Bacterial confinement in hydrogels: Engineering artificial biofilms as living materials

Natural bacterial biofilms are complex polymeric matrices capable of regulating the metabolic activity, growth, division and viability of the encapsulated bacteria, apart from providing protection from external factors and regulating immune responses. However, these biofilms grow with microscopically heterogenous mechanical properties, because of which, studying their effects on bacterial behavior and replicating them is a formidable task. As simplified models, artificial biofilms have been fabricated by encapsulating bacteria within polymeric matrices of defined formulations. Apart from using such systems to study bacterial behavior under biofilm-mimetic confined conditions, such matrices have further been used for the shielded delivery of probiotics in the body and for biocatlysis in industrial settings. Recently, with the growth of synthetic biology tools, bacterial encapsulation has extensively pervaded other fields in the form of “Living materials”, wherein they are being developed for applications such as self-healing concrete, environmental remediation, smart fabrics, energy generation, biosensing and drug delivery. For such applications, polymeric matrices are being studied and designed to sustain bacterial activity, regulate their proliferation, prevents their escape and protect them from environmental insults, while being compatible with processing techniques such as coating, 3D printing and microfabrication. In this intro lecture, I will touch upon biophysical aspects of bacterial confinement and provide a glimpse into the above mentioned applications along with associated technological developments. Finally, I will highlight my own work in developing optogenetically-engineered bacterial hydrogels capable of producing and releasing proteins[1] or metabolically synthesized drugs[2] regulated by light.

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