Synthetic morphology with agential materials

Jamie A Davies, Michael Levin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Bioengineering can address many important needs, from transformative biomedicine to environmental remediation. In addition to practical applications, the construction of new living systems will increase our understanding of biology and will nurture emerging intersections between biological and computational sciences. In this Review, we discuss the transition from cell-level synthetic biology to multicellular synthetic morphology. We highlight experimental embryology studies, including organoids and xenobots, that go beyond the familiar, default outcomes of embryogenesis, revealing the plasticity, interoperability and problem-solving capacities of life. In addition to traditional bottom-up engineering of genes and proteins, design strategies can be pursued based on modelling cell collectives as agential materials, with their own goals, agendas and powers of problem-solving. Such an agential bioengineering approach could transform developmental biology, regenerative medicine and robotics, building on frameworks that include active, computational and agential matter.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-59
JournalNature Reviews Bioengineering
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jan 2023


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