Synthetic developmental biology: New tools to deconstruct and rebuild developmental systems

Harold M. McNamara, Beatrice Ramm, Jared E. Toettcher

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Technological advances have driven many recent advances in developmental biology. Light sheet imaging can reveal single-cell dynamics in living three-dimensional tissues, whereas single-cell genomic methods open the door to a complete catalogue of cell types and gene expression states. An equally powerful but complementary set of approaches are also becoming available to define development processes from the bottom up. These synthetic approaches aim to reconstruct the minimal developmental patterns, signaling processes, and gene networks that produce the basic set of developmental operations: spatial polarization, morphogen interpretation, tissue movement, and cellular memory. In this review we discuss recent approaches at the intersection of synthetic biology and development, including synthetic circuits to deliver and record signaling stimuli and synthetic reconstitution of pattern formation on multicellular scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-42
Number of pages10
JournalSeminars in Cell and Developmental Biology
StatePublished - May 30 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cell Biology
  • Developmental Biology


  • Development
  • Gene circuits
  • Optogenetics
  • Synthetic biology


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