Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Envelope for an Artificial Cell

26.01.2012
Chemists have taken an important step in making artificial life forms from scratch. Using a novel chemical reaction, they have created self-assembling cell membranes, the structural envelopes that contain and support the reactions required for life.
Neal Devaraj, assistant professor of chemistry at the University of California, San Diego, and Itay Budin, a graduate student at Harvard University, report their success in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

“One of our long term, very ambitious goals is to try to make an artificial cell, a synthetic living unit from the bottom up – to make a living organism from non-living molecules that have never been through or touched a living organism,” Devaraj said. “Presumably this occurred at some point in the past. Otherwise life wouldn’t exist.”

By assembling an essential component of earthly life with no biological precursors, they hope to illuminate life’s origins.

“We don’t understand this really fundamental step in our existence, which is how non-living matter went to living matter,” Devaraj said. “So this is a really ripe area to try to understand what knowledge we lack about how that transition might have occurred. That could teach us a lot – even the basic chemical, biological principles that are necessary for life.”

Molecules that make up cell membranes have heads that mix easily with water and tails that repel it. In water, they form a double layer with heads out and tails in, a barrier that sequesters the contents of the cell.

Devaraj and Budin created similar molecules with a novel reaction that joins two chains of lipids. Nature uses complex enzymes that are themselves embedded in membranes to accomplish this, making it hard to understand how the very first membranes came to be.

“In our system, we use a sort of primitive catalyst, a very simple metal ion,” Devaraj said. “The reaction itself is completely artificial. There’s no biological equivalent of this chemical reaction. This is how you could have a de novo formation of membranes.”

They created the synthetic membranes from a watery emulsion of an oil and a detergent. Alone it’s stable. Add copper ions and sturdy vesicles and tubules begin to bud off the oil droplets. After 24 hours, the oil droplets are gone, “consumed” by the self-assembling membranes.

Although other scientists recently announced the creation of a “synthetic cell,” only its genome was artificial. The rest was a hijacked bacterial cell. Fully artificial life will require the union of both an information-carrying genome and a three-dimensional structure to house it.

The real value of this discovery might reside in its simplicity. From commercially available precursors, the scientists needed just one preparatory step to create each starting lipid chain.

“It’s trivial and can be done in a day,” Devaraj said. “New people who join the lab can make membranes from day one.”

The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering supported this work. UC San Diego has filed a patent application on this discovery. Anyone with commercial interest in the research or application should contact senior licensing officer Eric Gosink in the technology transfer office at egosink@ucsd.edu

Neal Devaraj | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucsd.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Colorectal cancer: Increased life expectancy thanks to individualised therapies
20.02.2020 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

nachricht Sweet beaks: What Galapagos finches and marine bacteria have in common
20.02.2020 | Max-Planck-Institut für Marine Mikrobiologie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A step towards controlling spin-dependent petahertz electronics by material defects

The operational speed of semiconductors in various electronic and optoelectronic devices is limited to several gigahertz (a billion oscillations per second). This constrains the upper limit of the operational speed of computing. Now researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg, Germany, and the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay have explained how these processes can be sped up through the use of light waves and defected solid materials.

Light waves perform several hundred trillion oscillations per second. Hence, it is natural to envision employing light oscillations to drive the electronic...

Im Focus: Freiburg researcher investigate the origins of surface texture

Most natural and artificial surfaces are rough: metals and even glasses that appear smooth to the naked eye can look like jagged mountain ranges under the microscope. There is currently no uniform theory about the origin of this roughness despite it being observed on all scales, from the atomic to the tectonic. Scientists suspect that the rough surface is formed by irreversible plastic deformation that occurs in many processes of mechanical machining of components such as milling.

Prof. Dr. Lars Pastewka from the Simulation group at the Department of Microsystems Engineering at the University of Freiburg and his team have simulated such...

Im Focus: Skyrmions like it hot: Spin structures are controllable even at high temperatures

Investigation of the temperature dependence of the skyrmion Hall effect reveals further insights into possible new data storage devices

The joint research project of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that had previously demonstrated...

Im Focus: Making the internet more energy efficient through systemic optimization

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, recently completed a 5-year research project looking at how to make fibre optic communications systems more energy efficient. Among their proposals are smart, error-correcting data chip circuits, which they refined to be 10 times less energy consumptive. The project has yielded several scientific articles, in publications including Nature Communications.

Streaming films and music, scrolling through social media, and using cloud-based storage services are everyday activities now.

Im Focus: New synthesis methods enhance 3D chemical space for drug discovery

After helping develop a new approach for organic synthesis -- carbon-hydrogen functionalization -- scientists at Emory University are now showing how this approach may apply to drug discovery. Nature Catalysis published their most recent work -- a streamlined process for making a three-dimensional scaffold of keen interest to the pharmaceutical industry.

"Our tools open up whole new chemical space for potential drug targets," says Huw Davies, Emory professor of organic chemistry and senior author of the paper.

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

70th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting: Around 70 Laureates set to meet with young scientists from approx. 100 countries

12.02.2020 | Event News

11th Advanced Battery Power Conference, March 24-25, 2020 in Münster/Germany

16.01.2020 | Event News

Laser Colloquium Hydrogen LKH2: fast and reliable fuel cell manufacturing

15.01.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Journey to the center of Mars

20.02.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

Laser writing enables practical flat optics and data storage in glass

20.02.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

New graphene-based metasurface capable of independent amplitude and phase control of light

20.02.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>