Posted by: Dan | July 28, 2007

Toward Giving Artificial Cells The Ability To Move

This is a bit outside my area of knowledge – I’m not a chemist – but I noticed on ScienceDaily recently a story about chemists trying to develop self-propelled oil droplets that could provide a basis for giving artificial cells the ability to move.

The new study focuses on “another essential and perhaps more fundamental characteristic of cells, the ability to move.” In laboratory experiments, the researchers showed that an oil droplet, used to represent an artificial cell, underwent sustained movement through a chemical solution for several minutes until finally coming to a stop.

In doing so, the researchers say, the droplet demonstrated a “primitive form of chemotaxis,” one of the most basic cellular responses in which the cell directs its movement toward the presence of certain chemicals in its environment. The study could provide a blueprint for designing future locomotion systems for artificial cells, the scientists suggest.

Now, this is quite a novel approach, from at least my point of view. The “top-down” approach of cell biology is what I’m accustomed to, where researchers take existing cells and deconstruct them in attempts to understand how cells work. This approach, building cells from the “ground-up,” has been conceived by Craig Ventner, but has focused largely on the genomic structure of artificial cells. Tadashi Sugawara and colleagues are the first I’d heard of who are trying to build the rest of the cell too.


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