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New Soil-Inspired Multifunctional Chemical System

Soil is a dynamic system of environmental responsiveness and microbe-material interactions. The soil-microbe complex is a combined and adaptable system that has the potential to reshape its state as per the external surrounding.

New Soil-inspired Multifunctional Chemical System

Soil-inspired dynamically responsive chemical system for microbial modulation. Image Credit: Prof. LIN Yiliang

Inspired by the characteristics of soil, scientists have devised a chemical system in which chemical sensing, redistribution, and modification could be induced by external stimuli.

This was performed at the University of Chicago, and Professor Xiang Gao from the Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology (SIAT) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences is the study’s co-first author.

This study was reported in the journal Nature Chemistry on October 24th, 2022.

The soil’s microbial-colonized environment is an ideal example of natural microbe-material interaction.

Endogenous soil minerals and organic matter cooperate dynamically with exogenous factors, such as mechanical and moisture force, to guide soil microbial communities. Simultaneously, soil microbes control biogeochemical cycles to enhance the soil with nutrients like sulfur, phosphorus, and nitrogen.

The scientists suggested a bottom-up synthetic method to build a chemical system made of starch granules, nanostructured minerals, and liquid metals to loosely depict immobilized organic and inorganic materials and mobile phases in the soil.

The system is chemically, optically, and mechanically responsive with programmable properties. We can 'encode' conductive information into the materials with mechanical pressure or laser patterning and then 'erase' the conductivity with chemical vapors. The whole process is reversible.

Yiliang Lin, Study Corresponding and First Author and Assistant Professor, National University of Singapore

In addition to the structural similarity to real soil and its dynamic responsiveness, the soil-inspired chemical system not only improves microbial metabolism in vitro, but also enriches gut bacterial diversity under pathological conditions and regulates bacterial dysbiosis in vivo.

In in vivo experiments, the soil-inspired chemical system improved gut microbiota abundance and modulated dysregulated gut microbes below pathological conditions.

Soil-inspired chemical systems showed promise for the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders.

Xiang Gao, Study Co-First Author and Professor, Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology

Besides being utilized on gut microbiota, this chemical system could be utilized to study other microbial systems, such as soil and skin microbiota. This could impact human health and the stability and productivity of agroecosystems.

Journal Reference

Lin, Y., et al. (2022) A soil-inspired dynamically responsive chemical system for microbial modulation. Nature Chemistry.


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