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Project Description

Keywords: Living biomaterials; Ice binding protein (IBP); Wound Healing; Lysostaphin; Staphylocci

Living cells can continuously monitor their microenvironment and respond to local environmental changes by expressing specific gene sets. This makes living cells attractive to use in small devices and smart materials. Bacterial cells are particularly attractive since they can be genetically "tailored" to produce many different types of proteins in response to almost any known type of chemical, physical or biological stress.

Unfortunately, exploiting this potential is held back by challenges like maintaining the viability, functionality and safety of the living components in freestanding materials and devices. The bacteria can be contained in a gel, but if they leak out and escape into the environment they may cause major problems.

We aim to design a living material in which the bacteria are immobilized within the hydrogel by using an adhesive protein which originates from an Antarctic bacteria. In this way, we’ll create a living material that can safely be used outside of the laboratory environment.

We aim to apply our living material to wound healing. Wounds are prone to infections of pathogenic bacteria, which dramatically slow down wound healing and are increasingly becoming resistant to antibiotics. Bandages may prevent infections to some extent, but they would be much more effective if they continuously release proteins that fight pathogens. This is what the bacteria in our material will do. They will produce a small protein named lysostaphin. This is an enzyme that specifically destroys staphylococcus aureus and other staphylocci, which are currently the most common cause of infections in hospitalized patients. In this way, a wound healing hydrogel can be created. This hydrogel can be easily and safely applied as a patch on the skin. This way, our living material will form a convenient alternative to antibiotics.

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