ACS synthetic biology. 2024-04-19; 13.4: 974-997.

Building Synthetic Cells─From the Technology Infrastructure to Cellular Entities

Rothschild LJ, Averesch NJH, Strychalski EA, Moser F, Glass JI, Cruz Perez R, Yekinni IO, Rothschild-Mancinelli B, Roberts Kingman GA, Wu F, Waeterschoot J, Ioannou IA, Jewett MC, Liu AP, Noireaux V, Sorenson C, Adamala KP

PMID: 38530077


The construction of a living organism is a compelling vision. Despite the astonishing technologies developed to modify living cells, building a functioning cell "from scratch" has yet to be accomplished. The pursuit of this goal alone has─and will─yield scientific insights affecting fields as diverse as cell biology, biotechnology, medicine, and astrobiology. Multiple approaches have aimed to create biochemical systems manifesting common characteristics of life, such as compartmentalization, metabolism, and replication and the derived features, evolution, responsiveness to stimuli, and directed movement. Significant achievements in synthesizing each of these criteria have been made, individually and in limited combinations. Here, we review these efforts, distinguish different approaches, and highlight bottlenecks in the current research. We look ahead at what work remains to be accomplished and propose a "roadmap" with key milestones to achieve the vision of building cells from molecular parts.