University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > mjsf3's list > A toolkit for manufacturing an artificial cell, from scratch: microfluidics, membrane design, and biomolecular engineering

A toolkit for manufacturing an artificial cell, from scratch: microfluidics, membrane design, and biomolecular engineering

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Artificial cells are structures that are constructed from the bottom-up using both synthetic and biological components, which resemble biological cells in form and function (Figure below). They are used both as simplified cell models, and as smart microdevices with a range of potential applications in industrial and clinical biotechnology. However, there are a lack of tools available for the construction of artificial cells that allow biomimetic architectures and behaviours to be dialled in a controlled and reproducible fashion. This means that the capabilities of artificial cells cannot match their biological counterparts.

In this talk, I will present some of our efforts to combat this. We have developed a toolkit for the construction of artificial cells of defined size, content, compartmentalisation, and connectivity. These are based on microfluidic, optical tweezer, and novel bio- membrane technologies. We are now moving away from reproducing cellular architectures, and towards mimicking biological behaviours that can be considered the hallmarks of life (sense/response, communication, motility, metabolism, signalling, symbiosis etc.) We are also exploring how artificial cells can be interfaced with the biological cells to form a new class of hybrid living/synthetic organisms (cellular bionics).

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