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Spatiotemporal Patterning of Living Cells with Extracellular DNA Programs

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posted on 24.12.2020, 12:34 by Marc Van Der Hofstadt, Jean-Christophe Galas, André Estevez-Torres
Reactive extracellular media focus on engineering reaction networks outside the cell to control intracellular chemical composition across time and space. However, current implementations lack the feedback loops and out-of-equilibrium molecular dynamics for encoding spatiotemporal control. Here, we demonstrate that enzyme–DNA molecular programs combining these qualities are functional in an extracellular medium where human cells can grow. With this approach, we construct an internalization program that delivers fluorescent DNA inside living cells and remains functional for at least 48 h. Its nonequilibrium dynamics allows us to control both the time and position of cell internalization. In particular, a spatially inhomogeneous version of this program generates a tunable reaction–diffusion two-band pattern of cell internalization. This demonstrates that a synthetic extracellular program can provide temporal and positional information to living cells, emulating archetypal mechanisms observed during embryo development. We foresee that nonequilibrium reactive extracellular media could be advantageously applied to in vitro biomolecular tracking, tissue engineering, or smart bandages.