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The expansion of T cells ex vivo is crucial for effective immunotherapy but currently limited by a lack of expansion approaches that closely mimic in vivo T cell activation. Taking inspiration from bottom-up synthetic biology, a new synthetic cell technology is introduced based on dispersed liquid-liquid phase-separated droplet-supported lipid bilayers (dsLBs) with tunable biochemical and biophysical characteristics, as artificial antigen presenting cells (aAPCs) for ex vivo T cell expansion. These findings obtained with the dsLB technology reveal three key insights: first, introducing laterally mobile stimulatory ligands on soft aAPCs promotes expansion of IL-4/IL-10 secreting regulatory CD8+ T cells, with a PD-1 negative phenotype, less prone to immune suppression. Second, it is demonstrated that lateral ligand mobility can mask differential T cell activation observed on substrates of varying stiffness. Third, dsLBs are applied to reveal a mechanosensitive component in bispecific Her2/CD3 T cell engager-mediated T cell activation. Based on these three insights, lateral ligand mobility, alongside receptor- and mechanosignaling, is proposed to be considered as a third crucial dimension for the design of ex vivo T cell expansion technologies.

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CD8 Treg, bottom‐up synthetic biology, cell mimics, elastomers, immunotherapy, supported lipid bilayers, synthetic cells, synthetic immunology