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Researchers Have Created Artificial Cells That Could React with Its Environment

Some artificial cells could be used to sense changes within the body and respond by releases drug molecules or to sense and eliminate harmful metals within the environment.

Responding to chemical changes is a significant function of biological cells. For instance, cells can reply to chemicals by creating specific proteins, boosting energy production, or self-destructing. Chemicals are additionally utilized by cells to communicate with each other and coordinate a response or send a signal, such as a pain impulse.

Nevertheless, in natural cells, these chemical responses could be very advanced, involving several steps. This makes them difficult to engineer, for example, if researchers wanted to make natural cells produce something useful, like a drug molecule.

As an alternative, the Imperial researchers are creating artificial cells that mimic these chemical responses in a lot simpler means, allowing them to be more easily engineered.

Now, the team has created the first artificial cells that may sense and reply to an external chemical sign using activation of an artificial signaling pathway. They designed cells that detect calcium ions and respond by fluorescing. Their results are published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

First author James Hindley, from the Department of Chemistry at Imperial, mentioned: “These techniques could be developed for use across biotechnology. For instance, we may imagine creating artificial cells that may sense cancer markers and synthesize a drug throughout the body, or artificial cells that can sense dangerous heavy metals within the environment and release selective sponges to clean them up.”

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