Shape-morphing living composites

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Science Advances  17 Jan 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 3, eaax8582
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax8582


This work establishes a means to exploit genetic networks to create living synthetic composites that change shape in response to specific biochemical or physical stimuli. Baker’s yeast embedded in a hydrogel forms a responsive material where cellular proliferation leads to a controllable increase in the composite volume of up to 400%. Genetic manipulation of the yeast enables composites where volume change on exposure to l-histidine is 14× higher than volume change when exposed to d-histidine or other amino acids. By encoding an optogenetic switch into the yeast, spatiotemporally controlled shape change is induced with pulses of dim blue light (2.7 mW/cm2). These living, shape-changing materials may enable sensors or medical devices that respond to highly specific cues found within a biological milieu.

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