Prototyping Artificial Cells

The first generation of mass-deployed medical microrobots is likely to consist of many different types of artificial cell, designed and grown to perform specific tasks in the body. As ScienceDaily notes, scientists are already making inroads into the basic tools and techniques: "researchers has developed a simple artificial cell with which to investigate the organization and function of two of the most basic cell components: the cell membrane and the cytoplasm - the gelatinous fluid that surrounds the structures in living cells. ... Many scientists are trying to understand cells by turning off genes, one at a time, and are observing the effects on cell function, but we're doing the opposite. We're starting from scratch, adding in components to find out what is needed to simulate the most basic cell functions. Our goal is to find out how much complexity can be observed in very simple collections of molecules. ... By creating a model cytoplasm with different compositions, we demonstrated that we can control the behavior of cell membranes. Now we want to find out what will happen if, for example, we add an enzyme whose activity depends on the compositions of the cytoplasm and cell membrane."



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