Synthetic, cellular and hybrid tissues

New techniques for tissue engineering

In the area of synthetic biology, considerable effort has been devoted to the preparation of artificial cells. By contrast, assemblies of interacting compartments, synthetic tissues, have been hardly explored.


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.


Recently, we have built 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 control synthetic tissues with external stimuli, e.g. with light or magnetism, and produce useful outputs, such as the synthesis of therapeutic peptides, is an active interest.


Our printing technology continues to be improved and it has been adapted to pattern living cells in three-dimensions. We have focused on the manipulation of cancer cells to form microtumours for the screening of therapeutic agents and neural cells to form brain tissues. Hybrids of synthetic and living tissues can also be constructed.

Selected papers

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


​Downs, F.G. Lunn, D.J., Booth, M.J., Sauer, J.B. Ramsay, W.J., Klemperer, R.G., Hawker, C.J. and Bayley, H. Multi-responsive hydrogel structures from patterned droplet networks. Nature Chemistry 12, 363 (2020). DOI:10.1038/s41557-020-0444-1


Zhou, L., Wolfes, A. C., Li, Y., Chan, D. C. W., Ko, H., Szele, F. G. and Bayley, H. Lipid bilayer supported 3D printing of human cerebral cortex cells reveals developmental interactions. Advanced Materials 32, 2002183 (2020). DOI:10.1002/adma.202002183




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