Team:KU Leuven/Future/More applications

More Applications

First of all, the project has the goal to unravel the secrets of nature according to pattern formation. Many have argued that a lot of things can be learned and understood by looking at nature. However, nature still holds many secrets hidden from the world, often cell-cell interaction and communication related. There can be a lot learned about nature from the same principles we are aiming to understand with our research. A better understanding of the pattern formation process in combination with the appropriate and detailed predictive mathematical models will also be advantageous in many other fields. As already discussed in the section Potential Analysis, bacteria can be used to make bone replacements more efficient. But there is still a wide range of other applications possible.

Tumor formation and the development of metastasis
Tumor formation is an example in which the medical world could benefit from a deeper, fundamental knowledge of pattern formation. Since most cancers begin as a disease in which the tissue pattern formation is aberrant, a thorough insight in the process is necessary. Hereby, bacteria form the perfect starting point to investigate the respond of single cells on different stimuli present in the environment. A better understanding of those mechanisms can result in a different approach to the treatment of certain cancers.

Miniature electrical conductors and circuits
Electrical circuits can be found everywhere in today's world, from traditional examples like kitchen appliances and radio's to the circuits in a pacemaker. A field that has particular success is micro-electronics, that is mainly interesting in the construction of integrated circuits. In the long term, the ability to construct predesigned patterns of bacteria could lead to applications in miniature electrical conductors and/or electrical circuits. The first step is to create the desired pattern, whereafter the bacteria can deposit electrical conducting substances. This clearly anticipates to the tendency of making electrical wires and integrated circuits as small as possible.

Novel biomaterials
Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, people have been mainly using concrete, cement and bricks as the main construction material. This situation remained largely unquestioned for more than 150 years. However quite recently, climate change and resource limitations are challenging the sustainability of traditional construction materials. In the search for new eco-friendly construction materials, the idea to use bacteria comes more and more into the picture. Initiatives like ‘the bacteria grown bricks from BioMason’ and ‘the sand solidifying Sporosarcina pasteurii bacillus from Dupe’ have shown that the idea of using bacteria for construction materials is not too futuristic, it could be useful. Some biomaterials can also offer excellent features like flame-resistance, eco-friendliness and sometimes even great insulation properties. The generation of patterns in a controlled way will allow the production of novel biomaterials. After forming a pattern, the cells can be engineered to precipitate or deposit networked biominerals, opening up exciting new avenues for the production of microstructured biocomposite materials. In order to do this, we should try to start working on 3D modeling of the patterns in parallel with the development of 3D biological patterns. Another way to face the 3D challenge, could be to work together with the TU Delft. They invented an advanced 3D printer that in the future could be used for the production of biomaterials. However issues about scaling up the production could make this application less interesting. More information about this future collaboration can be found on the following link: Future collaboration with TU Delft.

Solidification of sand
Dredging and reclamation projects such as beach replenishment and dredging sand banks are facing the problems of stability. Especially erosion shortens the life span of sand banks dramatically. Therefore, research into sticking together grains of sand as a result of bacterial activity is becoming more popular. The project contributes also in this field. The bacteria can be triggered by an increase of salt concentration to precipitate particles in a specific pattern so that they can hold the sand together. In that way, it is possible to make the sand more solid.


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