Synthetic cells that act like real ones designed

July 21st, 2010 - 5:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 21 (IANS) Inspired by ants’ social interactions, researchers have created artificial cells capable of acting like their biological counterparts. The research paves the way towards producing synthetic cells that could perform important, microscale functions in fields ranging from the chemical industry to medicine.
The University of Pittsburgh team has designed a way to develop artificial cells or microcapsules, reports the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

These synthetic cells can communicate, move independently, and transport “cargo” such as chemicals needed for reactions, said a Pittsburg release.

Most importantly, the “biologically inspired” devices function entirely through simple physical and chemical processes, behaving like complex natural organisms, minus the complicated internal biochemistry, said Anna Balazs.

Balazs is professor of chemical engineering in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering.

The Pitt group’s microcapsules interact by secreting nano-particles in a way similar to that used by biological cells signal to communicate and assemble into groups.

And much like the ants, the cells leave chemical trails as they travel, prompting fellow microcapsules to follow.

Balazs worked with German Kolmakov and Victor Yashin, both post-doctoral researchers in Pitt’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, who produced the cell models, and with Steven Levitan, professor of electrical and computer engineering, who devised the ant-like trailing ability.

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