How engineered materials and machines powered by living biological cells can tackle technological challenges in medicine, agriculture, and global security.
You are a biological machine whose movement is powered by skeletal muscle, just as a car is a machine whose movement is powered by an engine. If you can be built from the bottom up with biological materials, other machines can be as well. This is the conceptual starting point for biofabrication, the act of building with living cells—building with biology in the same way we build with synthetic materials. In this volume in the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series, Ritu Raman offers an accessible introduction to biofabrication, arguing that it can address some of our greatest technological challenges.
After presenting the background information needed to understand the emergence and evolution of biofabrication and describing the fundamental technology that enables building with biology, Raman takes deep dives into four biofabrication applications that have the potential to affect our daily lives: tissue engineering, organs-on-a-chip, lab-grown meat and leather, and biohybrid machines. Organs-on-a-chip (devices composed of miniature model tissues), for example, could be used to test new medicine and therapies, and lab-grown meat could alleviate environmental damage done by animal farming. She shows that biological materials have abilities synthetic materials do not, including the ability to adapt dynamically to their environments. Exploring the principles of biofabrication, Raman tells us, should help us appreciate the beauty, adaptiveness, and persistence of the biological machinery that drives our bodies and our world.