For lovers of Camembert, the downy white rind is the tart bite that balances out the fat-laden, oozing, pungent layer inside.
For a group of Swiss bioengineers, that moldy rind is one of nature's greatest living surfaces, doing double duty as a shield and a cleaner. The rind allows the cheese's deep flavor and aroma to mature, but also defends it against microorganisms that could spoil it. The cheese repays the fungi on the rind by supplying it with nutrients.
So amazing is the rind that the scientists, who are interested in designing "smart," functional materials, used it as an inspiration to build their own living material. The researchers describe their work in a paper published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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