This three-dimensional chimpanzee skull was printed using the same basic technology that Shear's lab is now using to print bacterial cages. (Credit: Jason Shear)

The researchers use a novel 3-D printing technology to build homes for bacteria at a microscopic level. The resulting structures (imaged in red through confocal fluorescence) can be of almost any shape or size, and can be moved around in relationship to other structures containing bacterial microcommunities (imaged in green). (Credit: Jason Shear)

The bacteria are put in the solution, and when the solution cools, the bacteria become fixed in place. The researchers then identify which bacteria they want to cage and in what shape and fire the laser, using a chip adapted from a digital movie projector to project a two-dimensional image into the gelatin. Wherever it focuses, a solid matrix forms. (Credit: Jason Shear)

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