First author and PhD candidate Emily Diep and her mentor Jessica D. Schiffman, a full professor in the Chemical Engineering (ChE) Department and the Gary R. Lapidus Professor at UMass Amherst, have published a groundbreaking paper in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Applied Bio Materials. The paper examines “Electrospinning Living Bacteria: A Review of Applications from Agriculture to Health Care.” See Electrospinning Living Bacteria: A Review of Applications.

As Diep and Schiffman explain in their ACS Applied Bio Materials article, “This review will first provide a brief overview of electrospinning before examining the impact of electrospinning parameters, such as precursor composition, applied voltage, and environment, on the viability of encapsulated bacteria.”

Electrospinning is a valuable production method for nanoscale polymeric fibers. According to NanoScience, “Electrospinning is a voltage-driven, fabrication process governed by a specific electrohydrodynamic phenomenon where small fibers are yielded from a polymer solution.”

In their paper, Diep and Schiffman note that “Living bacteria are used in biotechnologies that lead to improvements in healthcare, agriculture, and energy. Encapsulating bacteria into flexible and modular electrospun polymer fabrics that maintain their viability will further enable their use.”

Diep and Schiffman add that “Currently, the use of nanofiber scaffolds to deliver live probiotics into the gut is the most researched application space; however, several additional applications, including skin probiotics (wound bandages) and menstruation products, have also been explored and will be discussed.”

According to Diep and Schiffman, the use of bacteria-loaded nanofibers as seed coatings, which promote plant growth, for the remediation of contaminated wastewaters, and in energy-generating microbial fuel cells, are also covered in this Invited Spotlights Forum article.

“In summary,” say Diep and Schiffman, “electrospinning is an effective method for encapsulating living microorganisms into dry polymer nanofibers. While these living composite scaffolds hold potential for use across many applications, before their use in commercial products can be realized, numerous challenges and further investigations remain.”

As Schiffman explains about her Schiffman Research Group, “The mission of our laboratory is to use green engineering to design next-generation materials that improve human health and the environment. Using chemistry inspired by nature, we invent and manufacture a broad range of polymer materials - from fouling resistant biomedical devices to filters that produce clean water to wearable conductive fabrics.”

Diep has been a graduate student in the Schiffman Research Group since 2018. She is a Spaulding-Smith STEM Fellow, and she has also received a National Science Foundation Soft Materials for Life Sciences Traineeship and a PPG Foundation Fellowship. Diep earned her BS in Chemical Engineering from Rutgers University with a minor in Mathematics.

Schiffman is the inaugural deputy editor of the peer-reviewed journal ACS Applied Engineering Materials and the former interim department head and the associate department head of the UMass ChE department. She earned her BS from Rutgers University, her MEng from Cornell University, and her PhD from Drexel University. (March 2023)

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