Synthetic biology is a rapidly growing multidisciplinary branch of science that exploits the advancement of molecular and cellular biology. Conventional modification of pre-existing cells is referred to as the top-down approach. Bottom-up synthetic biology is an emerging complementary branch that seeks to construct artificial cells from natural or synthetic components. One of the aims in bottom-up synthetic biology is to construct or mimic the complex pathways present in living cells. The recent, and rapidly growing, application of microfluidics in the field is driven by the central tenet of the bottom-up approach—the pursuit of controllably generating artificial cells with precisely defined parameters, in terms of molecular and geometrical composition. In this review we survey conventional methods of artificial cell synthesis and their limitations. We proceed to show how microfluidic approaches have been pivotal in overcoming these limitations and ushering in a new generation of complexity that may be imbued in artificial cells and the milieu of applications that result.
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