Fabrication of living soft matter by symbiotic growth of unicellular microorganisms†
We report the fabrication of living soft matter made as a result of the symbiotic relationship of two unicellular microorganisms. The material is composed of bacterial cellulose produced in situ by acetobacter (Acetobacter aceti NCIMB 8132) in the presence of photosynthetic microalgae (Chlamydomonas reinhardtii cc-124), which integrates into a symbiotic consortium and gets embedded in the produced cellulose composite. The same concept of growing living materials can be applied to other symbiotic microorganism pairs similar to the combination of algae and fungi in lichens, which is widespread in Nature. We demonstrate the in situ growth and immobilisation of the C. reinhardtii cells in the bacterial cellulose matrix produced by the simultaneous growth of acetobacter. The effect of the growth media composition on the produced living materials was investigated. The microstructure and the morphology of the produced living biomaterials were dependent on the shape of the growth culture container and media stirring conditions, which control the access to oxygen. As the photosynthetic C. reinhardtii cells remain viable and produce oxygen as they spontaneously integrate into the matrix of the bacterial cellulose generated by the acetobacter, such living materials have the potential for various applications in bio-hydrogen generation from the immobilised microalgae. The proposed approach for building living soft matter can provide new ways of immobilising other commercially important microorganisms in a bacterial cellulose matrix as a result of symbiosis with acetobacter without the use of synthetic binding agents and in turn increase their production efficiency.