Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Coral Relief

Mimicking the coral-algae relationship with 3D printing – potential biomedical applications?

25 May 2020

Coral Relief

Their relationship blossoming on the sea bed, algae and coral have shared a symbiosis for millions of years – the coral providing protection, while the algae use photosynthesis to make and share nurturing chemicals like oxygen. Here, a modified form of 3D printing helps to ‘print’ intricate coral structures which channel patterns of light into their nooks and crannies – guiding the growth of algae. Zooming in on the lab grown coral with a scanning electron microscope, we see microalgae clumps or aggregates growing in the gaps. In the future it may be possible to design and grow huge coral/algae structures to produce chemicals on demand, as a new energy source, or perhaps as living scaffolds inside the human body, providing a boost of oxygen to healing tissues.

Written by John Ankers

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