Researchers Develop Artificial Cells akin Living Cells Using Nanotechnology

In Education

Researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill have developed artificial cells mirroring the functions of living cells, marking a significant advancement in science. This breakthrough holds promise for advancements in drug delivery, regenerative medicine, and medical diagnostics.

According to Freeman from the Applied Physical Sciences Department at UNC College of Arts and Sciences, the finding suggests potential for creating responsive fabrics or tissues that react to environmental changes.

Scientists leverage nanotechnology and protein engineering to produce cells

Cells and tissues consist of proteins organizing to execute diverse functions and construct structures. Central to each cell is the cytoskeleton, a dynamic scaffold abundant in proteins, providing structure and adaptability. Absence of this crucial framework renders cells shapeless, hindering division, migration, and essential functions. Freeman’s team has decoded cellular architecture’s fundamental principles by adeptly constructing artificial cytoskeletons.

The groundbreaking study, featured in Nature Chemistry, combines DNA nanotechnology and protein engineering. By employing a “programmable” method guiding amino acids to precise sequences, researchers induce genetic material fragments to self-assemble into protein-like lattices, mimicking natural cytoskeletons with remarkable shape-changing abilities.

Freeman highlighted DNA’s unconventional role in cytoskeleton as reprogrammed sequences, acting as architectural material to bind peptides, forming structures when placed in water droplets.

Scientists harness DNA programming to engineer cells for precise tasks and modulate their reactions to external pressures. Unlike natural cells, which are intricate yet unpredictable, synthetic counterparts, like those developed by Freeman’s Lab, exhibit greater resilience, enduring harsh conditions like extreme heat.

 Freeman emphasizes on their stability even at 122 degrees Fahrenheit, suggesting the potential for manufacturing cells with exceptional functions in inhospitable environments, expanding opportunities beyond conventional human habitats.

Approach enables durability as materials are adaptable

The approach employed contrasts the conventional notion of durability; their materials adapt to tasks. They serve a specific function and can reconfigure for new roles. Customization involves incorporating varied peptide or DNA patterns to program cells within fabrics or tissues. These innovative materials can seamlessly interact with other synthetic cell technologies, promising transformative impacts in biotechnology and medicine.

Freeman concludes that synthetic cell tech replicates and surpasses nature, advancing material production beyond biological limitations.

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