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Nature Reviews Bioengineering


Living materials, which are either made of and by living cells or synthetic with programmable elements catered to cells within, are environmentally responsive and can self-repair, allowing for controlled and predictable interactions with biological systems. Such features can also be achieved in purely synthetic materials by using chemical approaches to create dynamic and responsive materials that can undergo programmed changes, that can be remodelled by cells in a predictive way, sense their microenvironment and report back, or respond to remote triggers to rearrange in physical or chemical ways. In this Review, we discuss synthetic approaches to design such cell- and environment-responsive living materials, with a particular focus on their application in cancer. We highlight how synthetic and systems biology approaches can be implemented in the design of synthetic living materials and outline key cancer-related applications, including modelling of tumour heterogeneity, the tumour microenvironment and tumour evolution in response to therapy. Finally, we emphasize the importance of inclusive designs that should be based on an understanding of how health and disease manifest and impact humans from all racial and ethnic backgrounds, skin colors, sex, and genders.


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Available for download on Thursday, November 14, 2024