In Advanced Materials: Microbial Arenas (together with several groups from the Microverse Cluster)
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In Advanced Materials: Microbial Arenas (together with several groups from the Microverse Cluster)

From the smallest ecological niche to global scale, communities of microbial life present a major factor in system regulation and stability. As long as laboratory studies remain restricted to single or few species assemblies, however, very little is known about the interaction patterns and exogenous factors which control the dynamics of natural microbial communities. In combination with microfluidic technologies, progress in the manufacture of functional and stimuli-responsive materials opens a new pathway towards artificial microbial arenas. As habitats for natural or multispecies synthetic consortia, they are expected to not only enable detailed investigations, but also the training and the directed evolution of microbial communities in states of balance and disturbance, or under the effects of modulated stimuli and spontaneous response triggers. In this article, we provide a perspective on how materials research will play an essential role in generating answers to the most pertinent questions of microbial engineering. We will introduce the concept of adaptive microbial arenas and possibilities for their construction from particulate microniches to three-dimensional habitats. Materials working as active and tunable components at the interface of living and non-living matter will unlock exciting opportunities in this field. Beyond forming the physical horizon for microbial cultivates, they will enable dedicated intervention, training and observation of microbial consortia.

Original Article:

L. Wondraczek, G. Pohnert, F. H. Schacher, A. Köhler, M. Gottschaldt, U. S. Schubert, K. Küsel, A. A. Brakhage, "Artificial Microbial Arenas: Materials for Observing and Manipulating Microbial Consortia", Adv. Mater. 2019, in press

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