Three-dimensional Patterning of Engineered Biofilms with a Do-it-yourself Bioprinter

Ewa M. Spiesz, Kui Yu, Benjamin A.E. Lehner, Dominik T. Schmieden, Marie Eve Aubin-Tam, Anne S. Meyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Biofilms are aggregates of bacteria embedded in a self-produced spatially-patterned extracellular matrix. Bacteria within a biofilm develop enhanced antibiotic resistance, which poses potential health dangers, but can also be beneficial for environmental applications such as purification of drinking water. The further development of anti-bacterial therapeutics and biofilm-inspired applications will require the development of reproducible, engineerable methods for biofilm creation. Recently, a novel method of biofilm preparation using a modified three-dimensional (3D) printer with a bacterial ink has been developed. This article describes the steps necessary to build this efficient, low-cost 3D bioprinter that offers multiple applications in bacterially-induced materials processing. The protocol begins with an adapted commercial 3D printer in which the extruder has been replaced with a bio-ink dispenser connected to a syringe pump system enabling a controllable, continuous flow of bio-ink. To develop a bio-ink suitable for biofilm printing, engineered Escherichia coli bacteria were suspended in a solution of alginate, so that they solidify in contact with a surface containing calcium. The inclusion of an inducer chemical within the printing substrate drives expression of biofilm proteins within the printed bio-ink. This method enables 3D printing of various spatial patterns composed of discrete layers of printed biofilms. Such spatially-controlled biofilms can serve as model systems and can find applications in multiple fields that have a wide-ranging impact on society, including antibiotic resistance prevention or drinking water purification, among others.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere59477
JournalJournal of visualized experiments : JoVE
Issue number147
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • 3D bioprinter
  • 3D printing
  • Additive manufacturing
  • Bacteria 3D printing
  • Bacterial applications
  • Bio-ink
  • Bioengineering
  • Biofilms
  • Issue 147
  • Spatially structured materials
  • Synthetic biology


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