The cell membrane is not only a physical barrier, but also a functional organelle that regulates the communication between a cell and its environment. The ability to functionalize the cell membrane with synthetic molecules or nanostructures would advance cellular functions beyond what evolution has provided. The aim of this Minireview is to introduce recent progress in using synthetic DNA and DNA-based nanostructures for cell-surface engineering. We first introduce chemical conjugation and physical binding methods for monovalent and polyvalent surface engineering. We then introduce the application of these methods for either the promotion or inhibition of cell–environment communication in numerous applications, including the promotion of cell–cell recognition, regulation of intracellular pathways, protection of therapeutic cells, and sensing of the intracellular and extracellular microenvironments. Lastly, we summarize current challenges existing in this area and potential solutions to solve these challenges.
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