This year-long proof of concept explores the interplay between bacterial communication circuits and the surface topology of the substrate they are on, to see if certain designed surface features can be made to trigger genetic development switches. Differentiation due to a diffusible chemical signal is central in the development of multicellular organisms. Success in replicating this strategy on a synthetic structure enables a spatially programmable consortium of bacterial cells. Our aims were to enable the self-assembly of multicellular microbial films on the surface of synthetic silicon and polymer forms to form hybrid constructs, generation of construct polarity in gene expression driven by the topology of the synthetic form, and size control of the assembled multicellular film. These achievements would enable our long term vision, which is to create a micro scale, programmable cellular-synthetic hybrid robot capable of autonomous motility, sensing and response in aqueous environments. These millimeter-scale constructs would be fabricated through synthetic biological self-assembly and will allow the seamless fusion of control techniques that rely on both gene expression and cell-level sensing, actuation and computation.
Project end date: 08/13/14