back to article Three words: Synthetic gene circuit. Self-assembling bacteria build pressure sensor

Beware, 3D printers. Self-assembling bacteria are coming for your jobs. Specially designed bacteria can organise themselves to make a three-dimensional pressure sensor, new research shows. Scientists are engineering these critters in order to some day help more cheaply and efficiently manufacture materials that can perform …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "a synthetic biologist"

    Call me old-fashioned but I prefer the genuine article.

    1. hplasm Silver badge

      "a synthetic biologist"

      Science Officer Ash is a goddamn robot!

      1. unwarranted triumphalism

        Re: "a synthetic biologist"

        I prefer the term 'artificial person'.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "a synthetic biologist"

 a distant relative of the "punctuated equilibrist".

    2. rdhood

      The bio version of Stargate Replicators....

      Self assembly taken to the extreme...

  2. wolfetone Silver badge

    The phrase "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should" is obviously lost on these scientists.

    1. TonyJ Silver badge

      "...The phrase "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should" is obviously lost on these scientists..."


      I mean, why shouldn't they?

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        "I mean, why shouldn't they?"

        Humanity has an uncanny knack of inventing cool things, and letting it run away from itself because it can't control it.

        We split the atom, which is an amazing thing. But when it goes wrong, our best solution to the problem of something we created is to stick it in a barrel and bury it for 30 years, then dig it back up, recontain it, and dig it somewhere else for another 30 years.

        Thats just one example.

        1. Elmer Phud Silver badge

          It's what curious monkeys do.

          No-one died as a result of Rocket going so fast ladies were advised not to travel.

          We got trains, mostly they have been good.

          Without messing about with atoms we'd be in a right sorry state.

          I'd suggest that the invention of air-conditioning has screwed up over more than nuclear.

          All they do is create more heat . .

        2. TonyJ Silver badge

          "..Humanity has an uncanny knack of inventing cool things, and letting it run away from itself because it can't control it..."

          Good point. We should stop.

          1. Paul Herber

            Like the invention of the marketing department?

      2. Archtech Silver badge

        How big is your amygdala?

        "Self-assembling". "Bacteria". Have you really contemplated the implications?

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: How big is your amygdala?

          Well, a biofab installation would certainly be vulnerable to viruses...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      When those genetically-engineered, specifically-purposed, non-life-threatening, cheap-as-air, environmental-friendly, over-hyphenated self-assembling bacteria products are ready, can you deliver them by flying car? My robot butler will get them in the airlock of my house in Mars.

    3. Vinyl-Junkie


      "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should"

      Perhaps they prefer a different motto: "We do what we must, because we can"

      1. John G Imrie Silver badge

        Re: Perhaps...

        Ah, bring your daughter to work day, well we know how well that turned out don't we.

        1. Muscleguy Silver badge

          Re: Perhaps...

          Mine loved it to bits. We still have the green stained skeletal prep of the chick embryo she manipulated so that it grew a mirror image wing tip. It sits in a glass vial in glycerol (the optical density means the other tissues of the chick embryo are transparent).

          It was all done properly, I filled out a risk assessment and everything. A kind fellow Kiwi colleague took her to do the embryo surgery. I don't remember exactly but it is entirely possible there were genetically transformed bacteria on the open benchtop while she was there. See my post above on that.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Perhaps...

            "A kind fellow Kiwi colleague"

            Was he related to the chick?

          2. Vinyl-Junkie

            Re: Perhaps...


            Fairly sure you missed the "Portal" references in John G Imrie and my posts... :)

    4. Muscleguy Silver badge

      I suggest you Google The Asilomar Conference. We have crippled and tamed and corralled bacteria so that they are entirely safe to use on the open benchtop. I have done so many, many times then gone home to my wife and kids. These are E. coli bacteria from our guts but they cannot survive there. They cannot survive without our specially formulated growth media.

      The bacteria used for this sort of stuff are really, really crippled, stripped down genomes so they can be added to and manipulated.

      As a Biomedical scientist I have absolutely and utterly NO fears about this work. None at all.

      Ah, how I love the smell of coli in the morning!

    5. HandleAlreadyTaken

      These are things man was not meant to know!

      >The phrase "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should" is obviously lost on these scientists.

      "Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow."

      — Victor Frankenstein, Frankenstein

  3. malle-herbert Silver badge


    Genetically Organized Robotic Technology...

  4. Warm Braw Silver badge

    Bacteria can organise themselves

    I'm not sure it's an improvement if the sensors can threaten strike action.

    1. Simon Harris Silver badge

      Re: Bacteria can organise themselves

      They probably have better organisational skills than me.

  5. Elmer Phud Silver badge

    I welcome our new etc. etc.

    But are they one of the 1% that can't be got at with a spray, wipe or duck?

  6. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Bit too late. This stuff has been going on for some time.

    Most notably with biobricks

    This technology is not confined to a laboratory.

    They are not the first bacteria to mfg objects. Sandstone, for example is made by bacteria.

    But 30 years after KE Drexlers "Engines of Creation" it's a bit disappointing this is viewed as impressive (which it is).

  7. Alperian

    Sorry your team died

    The depressurisation was undetected because I forgot to feed my colony My bad..

  8. hatti

    They look just like wotsits but greener

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      ooooooooooooooooooh my god

      Wasabi wotsits. You genius!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    what could possibly go wrong?

    These bacteria would look sexy on Jerri Ryan.

  10. 1Rafayal

    is this vegan friendly?

  11. ahjgta

    Woke me up.

    This is so close to the way life is created.

  12. RLWatkins

    Bio-fabrication is better at making food than it is parts

    '"We do believe biofabrication is cheaper and requires less energy" than other approaches.'

    Sure. And it makes parts that are less reliable, and less robust, than other manufacturing methods. What's more, there are literally quintillions of things wandering around the Earth which want to eat bio-fabricated parts, and very few at all that want to eat parts made of metal or silicon.

    This is all really nifty, but I don't want to rely on a machine which includes parts which themselves consist of a bunch of prokaryotes pretending to be sensors, memory or whatever.

    1. Duffy Moon

      Re: Bio-fabrication is better at making food than it is parts

      Perhaps not necessarily machines, but there's certainly a case for being able to create parts and structures that are low-energy to produce and which are easily biodegradable when finished with.

  13. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    So, kit that can be grown, but needs to be "kept alive" by watering and feeding it?

    If I look at my history with pets and houseplants, this does not bode well.

  14. anothercynic Silver badge

    Still brilliant though...

    This pushes boundaries further. Biology tends to have better manufacturing processes to a degree... We only tend to borrow and improve.

  15. crediblywitless

    "You said his team could do more work to improve the fabrication process's robustness..." I did? Who's on first?

  16. B Bunter

    pick up gold nanoparticles you say?

    Well enough said, where do I sign?

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