Dr. Jason Shear, a researcher and professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Texas at Austin, sees a novel, new application for 3D printing technology — the creation of real-life bacterial colonies — which can unlock new revelations about bacteria behavior, ultimately paving the way toward improvements in disease treatment and cures.
We’ve profiled a wide range of new applications for 3D printers — a technology that consistently intersects with the Texas biotech and life sciences sectors. Now, researchers are beginning to leverage 3D printing to “sculpt” custom bacterial colony shapes for use in research studies. Commercial 3D printers often extrude plastic and other amorphous materials to create scaffolds for a wide range of products and items. The same technology can also create biological scaffolds as well, such as gelatin-based bacterial breeding grounds, which can be shaped into almost any three-dimensional shape, including complex shapes, such as pyramids and nested spheres.
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The purpose behind building these structures is to better understand how being clustered in different-shaped and sized colonies affect bacteria behavior: “How many bacteria have to be clustered together, and in what size and what shape, in order for that microcolony to start acting differently than the cells do on their own,” explained Dr. Shear.
Because researchers recognize that bacteria colonies play a significant role in how deadly diseases are to the human body and how some strains are particularly resistant to antibiotics, crafting custom-shaped colonies allows sciences to better determine how the actual structure of a bacteria colony impacts disease.