Synthetic Cell Structures Replicate Basic Functions of Living Cells

Sep, 2021 - By SMI

Synthetic Cell Structures Replicate Basic Functions of Living Cells

Researchers created artificial cell structures that ingest, process, and force out material by themselves creating crucial function of living cells.

For many years, scientists have been aiming to develop synthetic cell structures that can copy the functions and behaviours of living cells. However, developing artificial cells that can perform difficult cellular tasks such as active transport has been a challenge. A team of scientists at New York University and University of Chicago developed new synthetic cell structures using non-organic material that behave like natural living cells and perform even the complicated cellular processes like active transport where they capture, store, and deliver microscopic materials.

The scientists wanted to imitate the active transport process without having to recreate the complicated mechanisms that cells use. They developed a sphere-shaped membrane that regulates what comes in and goes out of the cell. Then by puncturing a microscopic hole into the membrane, they created a small passage for cellular material to be exchanged which is an imitation of protein channel of a cell. It requires energy to regulate cellular material in and out of the membrane. In natural cells, this energy is provided by mitochondria and ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate). So, the researchers included a chemically reactive component inside the small passage, which acts as a pump when it’s activated by light. Shining light on the chemically reactive component begins a chemical reaction that pulls the cellular material through the passage and when the light is turned off it keeps the material inside. When the reaction is reversed, it expels the material out.

The team examined the artificial cells in various situations. One of them was, where the artificial cells were put in the water and activated by light. The observation showed that the cells ingested particles from the water, proving a potential use for cleaning microscopic impurities out of water.

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