Excitement about synthetic biology is higher than ever, and the fabrication of synthetic cells and tissues of significant complexity continues to be a central goal. While the definition of ‘synthetic cell’ is debatable, that hardly matters as dramatic advances are made in numerous overlapping and complementary areas.

The perspectives and reviews in this issue provide a view of these advances [1–27]. Today the coverage can no longer be comprehensive, but the short pieces display the scope of this vital aspect of synthetic biology and direct the reader to additional review material and recent original papers.

In the bottom-up approach, synthetic cells, most often based on lipid vesicles, are built from parts, natural or unnatural. Functional, bottom-up synthetic cells may have a defined life-span, expiring as they run down, or be energized by an external energy source, such as light. Recent work includes progress in the encapsulation...

You do not currently have access to this content.