MIT Made A Living Breathing Suit Complete With Shoes
A team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was tasked with coming up with the next generation living breathing suit. This is a line of sportswear that’s made out of living microbial cells. It definitely looks like it’s out of science fiction as if it has some sort of scales on its back or something.
“[W]e propose to use genetically tractable microbial cells to create multifunctional, moisture-responsive interfaces,” the researchers wrote in a study published in Science Advances. “We hypothesised that microbial cells can be used as functional building blocks for constructing moisture-responsive materials.”
The strains of microorganisms used by the team in designing their leaving breathing suit is a common and nonpathogenic strain of E.coli that was printed onto latex sheets. Since the microorganisms are nonpathogenic, it means that they don’t pose any threat and will never do so, even if it’s E.coli. These cells were then designed in the shape of those ventilating flaps as part of the workout suit.
And those flaps aren’t fixed either. They open and close depending on the heat and sweat generated by the athlete’s body. These microbes react to the changes in humidity, expanding when the athlete begins to sweat and then shrinking back once the body cools down. These microbes are also very durable and safe to the touch. You could even eat them if you want, but what’s would be the point?
There are also some future plans in the works.
“We can combine our cells with genetic tools to introduce other functionalities into these living cells,” explained MIT’s Wen Wang, lead author of the study. “We use fluorescence as an example, and this can let people know you are running in the dark. In the future, we can combine odor-releasing functionalities through genetic engineering. So maybe after going to the gym, the shirt can release a nice-smelling odour.”
We can expect plenty of other cool things coming from MIT in regards to the live breathing suit. Biofarbrication is already used to 3D Print human organs. Graphene is another such material that could be used to great effect in the future here.
“This work is an example of harnessing the power of biology to design new materials and devices and achieve new functions,” said Xuanhe Zhao, a co-author of the study. “We believe this new field of ‘living’ materials and devices will find important applications at the interface between engineering and biological systems.”