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Coupling synthetic biology and programmable materials to construct complex tissue ecosystems

  • Catherine S. Millar-Haskell (a1), Allyson M. Dang (a2) and Jason P. Gleghorn (a1)


Synthetic biology combines engineering and biology to produce artificial systems with programmable features. Specifically, engineered microenvironments have advanced immensely over the past few decades, owing in part to the merging of materials with biologic mimetic structures. In this review, the authors adapt a traditional definition of community ecology to describe “cellular ecology,” or the study of the distribution of cell populations and interactions within their microenvironment. The authors discuss two exemplar hydrogel platforms: (1) self-assembling peptide hydrogels and (2) poly(ethylene) glycol hydrogels and describe future opportunities for merging smart material design and synthetic biology within the scope of multicellular platforms.


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Address all correspondence to Jason P. Gleghorn at


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