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Synthesizing artificial cells from giant unilamellar vesicles: State-of-the art in the development of microfluidic technology

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Abstract

Microfluidic technology – the manipulation of fluids at micrometer scales – has revolutionized many areas of synthetic biology. The bottom-up synthesis of “minimal” cell models has traditionally suffered from poor control of assembly conditions. Giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) are good models of living cells on account of their size and unilamellar membrane structure. In recent years, a number of microfluidic approaches for constructing GUVs has emerged. These provide control over traditionally elusive parameters of vesicular structure, such as size, lamellarity, membrane composition, and internal contents. They also address sophisticated cellular functions such as division and protein synthesis. Microfluidic techniques for GUV synthesis can broadly be categorized as continuous-flow based approaches and droplet-based approaches. This review presents the state-of-the-art of microfluidic technology, a robust platform for recapitulating complex cellular structure and function in synthetic models of biological cells.

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