Research | Printed synthetic, cellular and hybrid tissues

We discovered a process by which aqueous droplets can be connected by means of lipid bilayers to form networks. Protein pores incorporated into the bilayers allow the droplets to communicate with each other and the environment. In the area of synthetic biology, considerable effort has been devoted to the preparation of artificial cells. By contrast, assemblies of interacting compartments, which act as tissues, have been hardly explored. Droplet networks are an advance in this direction. By using engineered pores in the interface bilayers, we have produced droplet networks that form batteries, detect light and rectify electrical signals. Recently, we have built more extensive networks by 3D printing to form synthetic tissues that conduct signals along neuron-like pathways or fold to assume altered shapes. The ability to subject synthetic tissues to external control, e.g. with light or magnetism, is an active interest. Further, the printing technology has been adapted to pattern living cells in three-dimensional patterns, enabling the fabrication of hybrid synthetic/ cellular materials.

Research paper:

Villar, G., Graham, A.D. and Bayley, H., A tissue-like printed material. Science, 340, 48 (2013). DOI:10.1126/science.1229495

Booth, M.J. Restrepo Schild, V., Graham, A.D., Olof, S.N. and Bayley, H., Light-activated communication in synthetic tissues. Science Advances, 2, e1600056 (2016). DOI:10.1126/sciadv.1600056


Booth, M.J., Restrepo-Schild, V., Downs, F. and Bayley, H., Functional aqueous droplet networks. Mol. BioSystems, 13, 1658 (2017). DOI:10.1039/C7MB00192D