MIT’s New Technique 3D Prints ‘Living Tattoo’ for First Time

MIT’s New Technique 3D Prints ‘Living Tattoo’ for First Time


Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) engineers have formulated a 3D printing technique that employs an interesting variety of ink prepared with the help of genetically programmed living cells. In response to several kinds of stimuli, the cells have been engineered to light up. They could be built into interactive, 3D devices and structures after printing them layer by layer, when mixed with a slurry of nutrients and hydrogel. The technique has been exhibited by the researchers using a print of a living tattoo patterned in a tree shape with living bacteria cells.

Each branch of the tree on the tattoo, a transparent, thin patch, is lined with cells that are sensitive to a dissimilar molecular or chemical compound. After the tattoo is attached to the skin open to the same compounds, the tree’s corresponding regions light up as a response.

Lu and Zhao’s Results Published in ‘Advanced Materials’ Journal

The technique presented by MIT researchers, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science and of biological engineering, Timothy Lu and Noyce Career Development professor, Xuanhe Zhao, of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, could be employed for the fabrication of active materials for interactive displays and wearable sensors. These materials could be patterned with live cells that are engineered for sensing pH and temperature changes and also environmental pollutants and chemicals.

The research team has also produced a model that could act as a guide to design responsive living materials. The model could help in predicting cell communications within a given 3D-printed structure in different conditions.

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Shveta Garg

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