PerspectiveSynthetic Biology

Toward synthetic cells

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Science  01 Nov 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6465, pp. 569-570
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaz5635

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Summary

An aspirational goal in cell biology is de novo synthesis of whole cells, with the expectation that this will reveal principles of spatiotemporal organization. Natural cells are defined by their boundaries, usually lipid bilayer plasma membranes stabilized by external cell walls or cytoskeletal cortices comprising actin. Typically, researchers approach cell synthesis by preparing protein mixtures in bulk, then partitioning them into cell-sized containers using water-in-oil emulsions, giant unilamellar vesicles, or microfabricated chambers. On page 631 of this issue, Cheng and Ferrell (1) describe an alternative approach to cell synthesis, whereby a bulk preparation of concentrated extract from frog eggs self-organizes into regularly spaced, cell-like units.

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