The creation of artificial cells is an immensely challenging task in science. Artificial cells contribute to revealing the mechanisms of biological systems and deepening our understanding of them. The progress of versatile biological research fields has clarified many biological phenomena, and various artificial cell models have been proposed in these fields. Microfluidics provides useful technologies for the study of artificial cells because it allows the fabrication of cell-like compartments, including water-in-oil emulsions and giant unilamellar vesicles. Furthermore, microfluidics also allows the mimicry of cellular functions with chip devices based on sophisticated chamber design. In this review, we describe contributions of microfluidics to the study of artificial cells. Although typical microfluidic methods are useful for the creation of artificial-cell compartments, recent methods provide further benefits, including low-cost fabrication and a reduction of the sample volume. Microfluidics also allows us to create multi-compartments, compartments with artificial organelles, and on-chip artificial cells. We discuss these topics and the future perspective of microfluidics for the study of artificial cells and molecular robotics.
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