3D printed live cells convert glucose to ethanol & CO2

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) researchers have 3D printed live cells that convert glucose to ethanol and carbon dioxide gas (CO2), a substance that resembles beer, demonstrating a technology that can lead to high biocatalytic efficiency.

Bioprinting living mammalian cells into complex 3D scaffolds has been widely studied and demonstrated for applications ranging from tissue regeneration to drug discovery to clinical implementation. In addition to mammalian cells, there is a growing interest in printing functional microbes as biocatalysts.

The new research shows that the additive manufacturing of live whole-cells can assist in research in microbial behaviors, communication, interaction with the microenvironment and for new bioreactors with high volumetric productivity.

In a case study, the team printed freeze-dried live biocatalytic yeast cells (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) into porous 3D structures. The unique engineered geometries allowed the cells to convert glucose to ethanol and CO2 very efficiently. Enabled by this new bio-ink material, the printed structures are self-supporting, with high resolution, tunable cell densities, large scale, high catalytic activity, and long-term viability. More importantly, if genetically modified yeast cells are used, high-valuable pharmaceuticals, chemicals, food, and biofuels can be produced as well.