Self-optimizing hybrid material systems are made up of a synthetic component as well as a living component and two optimize each other to grow more productive. In the long run, hope to optimize such systems to develop very small modular production processes, miniaturized factories for use, an economical and sustainable business practices. From the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in where scientists at the Institute for Biological Interfaces are working on tiny bioreactors. They aim is to improve the implementation of chemical reactions and how it works? The microreactors are shot through with channels, these channels are filled to the brim with genetically modified bacteria that produce specific enzymes. Nutrients flow into the channels gently and without turbulence. Allowing the enzymes to process them optimally into end products, molecules that serve as building blocks for pharmaceutical agents. An enzyme can do this with a very simple step under very mild conditions and water. This synthesis process is very efficient and also highly interesting from an economic point of view. Compared to conventional biocatalysis, flow biochemistry has the advantage that the miniature reactors run continuously. Substrate and product flow in and out constantly. To obtain products from large fermenters, they have to be switched off and the content subsequently has to be separated.
When this synthesis of drug precursors takes place in living biofilms, as in this case, the process grows complex. The bacteria grow and the enzyme output along with them as well as the output of other metabolic products. That means researchers have to continuously monitor and analyze enzyme production. Isolated pure enzymes are easier to control than bacteria, but there's a catch how can we be anchored in the flow of the microreactor without being damaged? The chip contains a magnet that attracts the enzymes because they have previously been provided with binding molecules that adhere to iron particles and these are held in place by the magnet. But the secret of flow chemistry is an even deeper one and to understand it, the researchers are trying to determine all the system’s building blocks from the ground up and that begins at the nanometer scale. These are nanostructured materials that build them through a process called self-assembly which means the molecules are programmed to assemble themselves into such nanostructures. And using these rectangular structures to place proteins on them and use these proteins to investigate certain effects. For example, how do these diffusion effects take place at the nanometer scale? Not just the adhesion structures for the biocatalysts have optimized the molecules themselves are as well. A fascinating tool for accomplishing this is the droplet generator. The researchers use its tiny liquid capsules as reaction spaces for programming enzymes and other proteins to fit perfectly into carrier structures. That's making micro reactors better and better and also more interesting to the industry.
Thanks to self-adhesive biocatalysts and microfluidics, different chemical reactions can take place sequentially in a single chip. That's the big advantage of using this LOC devices. These allow you to first optimize the process on a very small scale with very small amounts of a substance. Once the process has been optimized, you can take the process as is and multiply it. But it's still early days and the development of biohybrid materials work is ongoing aimed at getting carrier material sent bio components to interact even more closely and dynamically. The researchers are for example experimenting with interactive nanomaterials and living mammalian cells. In order to understand the interaction, trying to use these materials to specifically adjust the growth of these cells. For instance to trigger catalytic activity in these cells, switching it on to utilize them for the production. The challenge is to develop future systems where the natural and the technical systems were actually hybridized to such an extent that new functions emerge. This approach offers great opportunities for future applications.
Enzymes produce active substances efficiently by accelerating chemical reactions in biocatalysis. Also, the reaction takes place in miniature reactors powered by microfluidics and self-made nanomaterials. In this way, highly selective drug building blocks can be produced.