Scientists have overturned the conventional top-down approach to studying cells to instead construct new cellular systems from the bottom up.
How is that a multitude of different molecules within a lipid envelope all come together to carry out the basic functions required to sustain organisms? Conventionally, biologists have worked from the top down to dissect how components in cells interact in their natural environment. But now technical advances are allowing researchers to take a different tack: using engineering principles to reconstruct biological processes from the bottom up. This special issue explores the potential and possible limits of bottom-up cell biology.
Built from the bottom up, synthetic cells and other creations are starting to come together and could soon test the boundaries of life.
To solve real-world problems using emerging abilities in synthetic biology, research must focus on a few ambitious goals, argues Dan Fletcher.
Engineering approaches allow biological structures and behaviours to be reconstituted in vitro. A biologist and a physicist discuss the potential and limitations of this bottom-up philosophy in providing insights into complex biological processes.
External forces can make cells undergo large, irreversible deformations. It emerges that stretched mammalian cells grown in vitro can enter a state called superelasticity, in which large, reversible deformations occur.
Theoretical modelling in combination with measurements of tension and shape in epithelial domes of controlled geometry reveals a plateau of tension in tissue that is maintained by heterogeneous strain across cells.