Special Issue "Microfluidic Applications in Synthetic Biology and Development of the Artificial Cell"

A special issue of Micromachines (ISSN 2072-666X). This special issue belongs to the section "B:Biology".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 September 2019.

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Dr. Chaitanya Kantak Website E-Mail
Yale School of Medicine, Yale University, USA
Interests: droplet microfluidics; synthetic biology; single cell analysis; cancer diagnostics; microfabrication
Guest Editor
Dr. Cherng-Wen Darren Tan Website E-Mail
Institute of Synthetic Bioarchitectures, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), Austria
Interests: model biological membranes; in vitro membrane-assisted protein synthesis; artificial cell structures; protein-mediated membrane fusion; novel HIV/AIDS treatment

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The quest for understanding and mimicking complex cellular structure and function has given rise to the field of synthetic biology - often boasted as the technology of the 21st century - which has tremendous potential to constructively disrupt biopharmaceutical, agricultural and biofuel industries. A major aim of synthetic biology is also to produce autopoietic systems - artificial cells - capable of persisting under various conditions and designed to perform myriad, often novel, functions of our choosing. Closely following the heels of synthetic biology is the recent maturation of microfluidic technologies. These powerful techniques give us unprecedented access to phenomena at dimensions of scale matching those of cells and cellular components. This has provided us with fine control and awareness over the microenvironment, including input stimuli and the output response, of cells. Microfluidics also allows us to track and probe single cells over extended periods of time, making it a powerful alternative to conventional cell studies. As such, microfluidic systems are admirably suited for studies involving cell-like material. Most importantly, it makes possible the controlled production of vesicle-like microdroplets, each a compartment embodying a specific cellular chemical machine, so important for multiparameter analyses. From this capability might come not only the production, but also the analysis, of organelle-like or even cell-like constructs. For these reasons, and many others, synthetic biologists have begun incorporating microfluidic applications in their work. In this special issue, Microfluidic Applications in Synthetic Biology and Development of the Artificial Cell, we invite researchers to present their novel findings and research advancements. Microfluidics-based work, involving both top-down approaches using cell-derivatives or bottom-up approaches for constructing modular cellular components, will be considered in this issue. We also invite the community to submit relevant and impactful work such as nucleic acid assembly, high throughput screening methodologies using microdroplets, cell-on-a-chip approaches, as well as advances in microfabrication that would impact synthetic biology. This special issue will comprise original research work, short communications, critical and tutorial reviews, and insights or perspectives related to this topic.

Dr. Chaitanya Kantak
Dr. Cherng-Wen Darren Tan
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Micromachines is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • biofabrication
  • autopoiesis
  • biomachines
  • artificial organelles
  • microdroplets
  • multiparameter analysis

Published Papers (3 papers)

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Review

Open AccessFeature PaperReview
Microfluidics for Artificial Life: Techniques for Bottom-Up Synthetic Biology
Micromachines 2019, 10(5), 299; https://doi.org/10.3390/mi10050299 - 30 Apr 2019
Abstract
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 [...] Read more.
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. Full article
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Open AccessFeature PaperReview
The Usual Suspects 2019: of Chips, Droplets, Synthesis, and Artificial Cells
Micromachines 2019, 10(5), 285; https://doi.org/10.3390/mi10050285 - 27 Apr 2019
Abstract
Synthetic biology aims to understand fundamental biological processes in more detail than possible for actual living cells. Synthetic biology can combat decomposition and build-up of artificial experimental models under precisely controlled and defined environmental and biochemical conditions. Microfluidic systems can provide the tools [...] Read more.
Synthetic biology aims to understand fundamental biological processes in more detail than possible for actual living cells. Synthetic biology can combat decomposition and build-up of artificial experimental models under precisely controlled and defined environmental and biochemical conditions. Microfluidic systems can provide the tools to improve and refine existing synthetic systems because they allow control and manipulation of liquids on a micro- and nanoscale. In addition, chip-based approaches are predisposed for synthetic biology applications since they present an opportune technological toolkit capable of fully automated high throughput and content screening under low reagent consumption. This review critically highlights the latest updates in microfluidic cell-free and cell-based protein synthesis as well as the progress on chip-based artificial cells. Even though progress is slow for microfluidic synthetic biology, microfluidic systems are valuable tools for synthetic biology and may one day help to give answers to long asked questions of fundamental cell biology and life itself. Full article
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Open AccessFeature PaperReview
Creation of Artificial Cell-Like Structures Promoted by Microfluidics Technologies
Micromachines 2019, 10(4), 216; https://doi.org/10.3390/mi10040216 - 27 Mar 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
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 [...] Read more.
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. Full article
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