Bottom-up fabrication of nanoscale materials has been a significant focus in materials science for expanding our technological frontiers. This assembly concept, however, is old news to biology — all living organisms fabricate themselves using bottom-up principles through a vast self-organizing system of incredibly complex biomolecules, a marvelous dynamic that we are still attempting to unravel. Can we use what we have gleaned from biology thus far to illuminate alternative strategies for designer nanomaterial manufacturing? In the present review article, new synthetic biology efforts toward using bacterial biofilms as platforms for the synthesis and secretion of programmable nanomaterials are described. Particular focus is given to self-assembling functional amyloids found in bacterial biofilms as re-engineerable modular nanomolecular components. Potential applications and existing challenges for this technology are also explored. This novel approach for repurposing biofilm systems will enable future technologies for using engineered living systems to grow artificial nanomaterials.

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