The development of architectural components with the capabilities of biological systems could lead to the realization of biofunctional, dynamic, interactive, and self-sustaining “living” architecture. One route to interfacing biological systems with architectural materials is functionalization with biomolecules. In particular, functionalization of surfaces with DNA incorporates both informational and active properties such as the ability to produce proteins. However, direct conjugation to surfaces can degrade biomolecule activity, reduce reaction kinetics, and limit available binding sites. Integration of DNA into a hydrogel matrix that is conjugated to the surface can overcome these limitations. Here, DNA encoding genetic information is converted into a hydrogel matrix, termed Meta P-gel. The unique mechanical properties of Meta P-gel allow it to adsorb to patterned ceramic surfaces in a spatially controlled manner. Simultaneously, Meta P-gel retains the biological ability to produce proteins, achieving spatial control over protein synthesis for potential applications in living architecture. Finally, Meta P-gel-based functionalization is applied to create stable protein gradients in situ, further exemplifying its applicability beyond architecture. These experiments are a first step toward continuous and stable protein expression from spatially controlled DNA hydrogels that would enable applications in biotechnological fields such as biosensor development and screening, and more broadly, in architectural fields such as fabrication of bioactive and bio-responsive ceramics for building façade design.

Interfacing DNA hydrogels with ceramics for biofunctional architectural materials
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DOI: 10.1016/j.mattod.2021.10.029