Living and Constructed Cells Fused to Make Mini-Chemical Factories

Animal and machine have been merged into a mini-singularity to produce mini-chemical factories.

From Science Daily

Artificial and biological cells work together as mini chemical factories

Researchers have fused living and non-living cells for the first time in a way that allows them to work together, paving the way for new applications.

The system, created by a team from Imperial College London, encapsulates biological cells within an artificial cell. Using this, researchers can harness the natural ability of biological cells to process chemicals while protecting them from the environment.

This system could lead to applications such as cellular ‘batteries’ powered by photosynthesis, synthesis of drugs inside the body, and biological sensors that can withstand harsh conditions.

Previous artificial cell design has involved taking parts of biological cell ‘machinery’ — such as enzymes that support chemical reactions — and putting them into artificial casings. The new study, published today inĀ Scientific Reports, goes one step further and encapsulates entire cells in artificial casings.

The artificial cells also contain enzymes that work in concert with the biological cell to produce new chemicals. In the proof-of-concept experiment, the artificial cell systems produced a fluorescent chemical that allowed the researchers to confirm all was working as expected.

Lead researcher Professor Oscar Ces, from the Department of Chemistry at Imperial, said: “Biological cells can perform extremely complex functions, but can be difficult to control when trying to harness one aspect. Artificial cells can be programmed more easily but we cannot yet build in much complexity.

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