The cell-free future comes in layers

// 12.04.2019

The fourth LRC summer school focuses on engineering sciences.

The fourth summer school for the young scientists of the LRC took place from April 03 to 05, 2019 in Dresden. Julian Thiele and his team at the Leibniz Institute of Polymer Research (Leibniz-IPF) organized the event.

The LRC junior research group "Synthetic Polymer Microreactors" in Dresden, led by Julian Thiele, is primarily focused on the additive production of microfluidic flow cells using modern 3D printing technologies and on the design of multifunctional polymers and hydrogels for cell-free biotechnology.

This year's summer school focused on the production of microfluidic chips using conventional technologies such as photo and soft lithography on the one hand and the latest 3D printing techniques on the other. "This impressively showed me the advantages of 3D printing, such as higher resolution and better material properties, e.g. smooth surfaces," says Johann Kufs, biotechnologist and doctoral student at Leibniz-HKI Jena. Biochemist Eugen Schell from Leibniz-IPB Halle, who has only been working in the Leibniz Research Cluster for six months, also benefited from the summer school in Dresden: "I can now better assess the possibilities, but also the limits, of these technologies. He also took the opportunity to talk to colleagues from other groups.

Furthermore, with the help of microfluidic structures, the participants were able to control the formation of droplets from hydrogels to which enzymes were later immobilised, a fundamental prerequisite for the LRC's declared goal of catalysing biosynthetic reactions outside living cells. Sandra Höfgen, a biochemist at Leibniz-HKI Jena, provided the enzymes for this experiment. For her, the Dresden Summer School was a very good continuation of the Dortmund Summer School 2017.

The doctoral student Xiong Xinhong from the Leibniz Institute for New Materials (Leibniz-INM) appreciates this year's summer school above all because of her insights into microfluidics: "I was particularly impressed by the production of the hydrogel particles with the help of a microfluidic reactor. For me as a materials scientist, it was extremely helpful to be able to immobilize proteins on the hydrogel particles myself. The resulting discussions with the biochemically trained participants of Leibniz-HKI Jena and Leibniz-IPB Halle fundamentally improved my understanding of proteins and I can now use this to overcome some hurdles in my own immobilization approach".

Before the SummerSchool 2019, all junior research group leaders and postdocs met in a progress workshop to discuss the state of technology achieved in the respective groups and to evaluate joint approaches on this basis. The common goal of the LRC, to create the scientific basis for the cell-free production of active substances will be fulfilled, and all partners aim to continue the hitherto so successful cooperation even beyond the LRC-funding time.

The next summer school is expected to take place in September 2019 at the Leibniz-INM in Saarbrücken. The participants will design complex structures consisting of a structured surface with geometrically arranged hollow columns (channels) and a soft actuator system that can switch these channels. This includes (1) the presentation of different actuator materials, such as smart hydrogels, liquid crystal elastomers, magnetic composites, (2) the study of boundary layer adhesion between different materials, and (3) the investigation of meso/micro fabrication technologies.

Source of images: Carola Graf (Leibniz-IPF Dresden)

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