Light-activated communication in synthetic tissues

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Science Advances  01 Apr 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 4, e1600056
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1600056

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We have previously used three-dimensional (3D) printing to prepare tissue-like materials in which picoliter aqueous compartments are separated by lipid bilayers. These printed droplets are elaborated into synthetic cells by using a tightly regulated in vitro transcription/translation system. A light-activated DNA promoter has been developed that can be used to turn on the expression of any gene within the synthetic cells. We used light activation to express protein pores in 3D-printed patterns within synthetic tissues. The pores are incorporated into specific bilayer interfaces and thereby mediate rapid, directional electrical communication between subsets of cells. Accordingly, we have developed a functional mimic of neuronal transmission that can be controlled in a precise way.

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