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Keywords:

  • Luffa cylindrica;
  • cell immobilization;
  • artificial liver device;
  • biomolecules;
  • bioremediation

The review discusses the development of loofa sponge (Luffa cylindrica) as a biotechnological tool and the diversity of applications in which it has been successfully used since it was first reported as a matrix for the immobilization of microbiological cells in 1993. The fibro-vascular reticulated structure, made up of an open network of random lattices of small cross-sections coupled with very high porosity (79–93%), having very low density (0.02–0.04 g/cm3), and high specific pore volume (21–29 cm3/g), has the characteristics of a carrier/scaffold well-suited for cell immobilization. This has been confirmed through the immobilization of cells of diverse types, including filamentous and microalgae, fungi, bacteria, yeasts, higher plants, and human and rat hepatocytes. The cells immobilized in loofa sponge have performed well and better than free suspended cells and those immobilized in conventionally used natural and synthetic polymeric materials for the production of ethanol, organic acids, enzymes, and secondary metabolites. The loofa-immobilized cell systems have been efficiently used for the treatment of wastewaters containing toxic metals, dyes, and chlorinated compounds, and the technology has been used to develop biofilms for the remediation of domestic and industrial wastewaters rich in inorganic and organic matter. In addition, three-dimensional loofa sponge scaffolds for hepatocyte culture have been suggested to have the potential for development into a bioartificial liver device. Loofa sponge is a cost-effective, eco-friendly, and easy to handle matrix that has been used successfully as a biotechnological tool in a variety of systems, purposes, and applications. © 2013 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 29:573–600, 2013