Special |

Bottom-up biology

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.


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.

News & Views Forum | | Nature

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.

News & Views | | Nature