Now, a plastic cell for experimenting with
In a major breakthrough, scientists have engineered an artificial cell with functional parts to help researchers carry out experiments and learn about the origins of life.
The plastic cell is capable of carrying out various steps of a chemical reaction, just as any living cell.
This was done at the Institute for Molecules and Materials (IMM) at Radboud University Nijmegen, in Holland.
The discovery was published in the first 2014 issue of the journal Angewandte Chemie, and was also highlighted by Nature Chemistry.
It is hard for chemists to match the chemistry in living cells in their laboratories. After all, in a cell, all kinds of complex reactions are taking place simultaneously in an overfull, small container, in various compartments and with incredible efficiency.
This is why chemists attempt to imitate the cell in various ways. In doing so, they also hope to learn more about the origin of life and the transition from chemistry to biology, reports Science Daily.
Jan van Hest and his PhD candidate Ruud Peters created their organelles by filling tiny spheres with chemicals and placing these inside a water droplet. They then cleverly covered the water droplet with a polymer layer -- the cell wall.
Using fluorescence (a light-emitting phenomenon), they were able to show that the planned cascade of reactions did in fact take place.
This means that they are the first chemists to create a polymer cell with working organelles. Just like in the cells in our bodies, the chemicals are able to enter the cell plasma following the reaction in the organelles, to be processed elsewhere in the cell.
(Posted on 15-01-2014)