Cell-free protein synthesis has emerged as a powerful technology platform to help satisfy the growing demand for simple and efficient protein production. My group has developed the use of mammalian cell-free protein synthesis for reconstituting membrane proteins into lipid bilayers and for building membrane-active artificial cells by encapsulating cell-free expression systems within lipid bilayer vesicles. In this talk, I will discuss broadly of the potential of cell-free expression as a research and technology tool. Our cell-free expression system is based on endogenous protein translation machineries from HeLa lysate and exogenous T7 transcription. Using this approach and by combining with droplet microfluidics for encapsulation, we are developing artificial cells that can sense a mechanical input and transduce a biochemical response. I will share some ideas on how cell-free expression along with sequencing technologies can potentially be exploited to study stem cell differentiation and aging.