Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • News & Views
  • Published:


Talking across the membrane

One goal of synthetic biologists is to develop artificial systems to help study biological processes. Now, cell communication and differentiation have been demonstrated using spatiotemporal patterns created in artificial multicellular compartments.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Fig. 1: A travelling pulse and differentiation of artificial cells.


  1. Christian, J. L. Wiley Interdiscip. Rev. Dev. Biol. 1, 3–15 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Grosberg, R. K. & Strathmann, R. R. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Evol. Syst. 38, 621–654 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Mittelbrunn, M. & Sánchez-Madrid, F. Nat. Rev. Mol. Cell Biol. 13, 328–335 (2012).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Elowitz, MichaelB. & Leibler, Stanislas Nature 403, 335–338 (2000).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Basu, S. et al. Nature 434, 1130–1134 (2005).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Buddingh’, B. C. & van Hest, J. C. M. Acc. Chem. Res. 50, 769–777 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Tayar, A. M., Karzbrun, E., Noireaux, V. & Bar-Ziv, R. H. Nat. Phys. 11, 1037–1041 (2015).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Dupin, A. & Simmel, F. C. Nat. Chem. (2018).

  9. Eldar, A. & Elowitz, M. B. Nature 467, 167–173 (2010).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rebecca Schulman.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Li, Y., Schulman, R. Talking across the membrane. Nature Chem 11, 18–20 (2019).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing: Translational Research

Sign up for the Nature Briefing: Translational Research newsletter — top stories in biotechnology, drug discovery and pharma.

Get what matters in translational research, free to your inbox weekly. Sign up for Nature Briefing: Translational Research