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Interface Engineering in Multiphase Systems toward Synthetic Cells and Organelles: From Soft Mater Fundamentals to Biomedical Applications

Engineered liquid–liquid interfaces of multiphase systems are effective for constructing compartmentalized cell?mimicking systems. Key features and examples of synthetic cells including lipid vesicles, polymer vesicles, hybrid systems and coacervate droplets are outlined, and their imitative biological behaviors such as growth, fusion, and energy conversion are summarized. Progress and challenges associated with state?of?art applications of cell?inspired synthetic compartments are highlighted.Synthetic cells have a major role in gaining insight into the complex biological processes of living cells; they also give rise to a range of emerging applications from gene delivery to enzymatic nanoreactors. Living cells rely on compartmentalization to orchestrate reaction networks for specialized and coordinated functions. Principally, the compartmentalization has been an essential engineering theme in constructing cell?mimicking systems. Here, efforts to engineer liquid–liquid interfaces of multiphase systems into membrane?bounded and membraneless compartments, which include lipid vesicles, polymer vesicles, colloidosomes, hybrids, and coacervate droplets, are summarized. Examples are provided of how these compartments are designed to imitate biological behaviors or machinery, including molecule trafficking, growth, fusion, energy conversion, intercellular communication, and adaptivity. Subsequently, the state?of?art applications of these cell?inspired synthetic compartments are discussed. Apart from being simplified and cell models for bridging the gap between nonliving matter and cellular life, synthetic compartments also are utilized as intracellular delivery vehicles for nuclei acids and nanoreactors for biochemical synthesis. Finally, key challenges and future directions for achieving the full potential of synthetic cells are highlighted.

Publication date: 21/09/2020

Author: Zhou Liu, Wen Zhou, Cheng Qi, Tiantian Kong

Reference: doi:10.1002/adma.202002932

Advanced Materials


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870292.