Bottom-up construction of complex biomolecular systems with cell-free synthetic biology

Nadanai Laohakunakorn, Laura Grasemann, Barbora Lavickova, Grégoire Michielin, Amir Shahein, Zoe Swank, Sebastian J. Maerkl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cell-free systems offer a promising approach to engineer biology since their open nature allows for well-controlled and characterized reaction conditions. In this review, we discuss the history and recent developments in engineering recombinant and crude extract systems, as well as breakthroughs in enabling technologies, that have facilitated increased throughput, compartmentalization, and spatial control of cell-free protein synthesis reactions. Combined with a deeper understanding of the cell-free systems themselves, these advances improve our ability to address a range of scientific questions. By mastering control of the cell-free platform, we will be in a position to construct increasingly complex biomolecular systems, and approach natural biological complexity in a bottom-up manner.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology
Publication statusPublished - 24 Mar 2020


  • cell-free synthetic biology
  • cell-free protein synthesis
  • in vitro reconstitution
  • microfluidics
  • compartmentalization
  • artificial boundary
  • in vitro replication


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