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Jaap Kaandorp of the Informatics Institute and master student CSL Helena Willard have developed a method to make a bioprint of the micro environment in a living coral with symbionts. This method makes it possible to develop synthetic designer corals with new properties.

The symbiosis between algae and corals is the biological motor behind one of the most spectacular biological structures on earth: the coral reef. Perturbation of this symbiosis by climate change is the major cause of the world wide decline of coral reefs.

The microscopical algae are living in the tissue of the coral and are responsible for the energy production by photosynthesis. This symbiosis is taking place in a micro environment (with length scales of micro meters) which is difficult to study.

Simulation of the exchange of oxygen produced by photosynthesis of symbiotic  algae in the coral micro environment
Simulation of the exchange of oxygen produced by photosynthesis of symbiotic algae in the coral micro environment

In these bio prints a bio ink consisting of microscopical algae is used. With these biomimetic coral polyps, the exchange of chemical agents involved in the metabolism of the symbiotic algae in the microstructure of a coral can be studied in great detail.

Collaboration

Jaap Kaandorp of the Computational Science Lab (CSL) and master student Helena Willard collaborated in this project with Daniel Wanpraseurt of the University of California. For Helena Willard this research was part of her graduation project in the master Computational Science.

An article about this research has recently been accepted for publication in Avanced Functional Materials.