The red light initiates photosynthesis in this artificial cell that eventually creates actin filaments.DISEASE BIOPHYSICS GROUP/HARVARD UNIVERSITY Scientists have crafted a cell-like structure that can use light to synthesize a protein needed to form the skeleton of a cell. They used plant- and bacteria-derived molecules that capture light energy to initiate and control the process. Red light starts a chemical reaction inside the artificial cell that helps produce and assemble filaments of actin, while green light brings the process to a halt.

“We have activated metabolic activity with light, built an on-demand protein network in a living cell, and packaged all of the components required to do this into one cell,” says Kit Parker, a coauthor on the paper, in a statement.  

K Lee et al., “Photosynthetic artificial organelles sustain and control ATP-dependent reactions in a protocellular system,” Nature Biotechnology, doi:10.1038/nbt.4140, 2018.

Interested in reading more?

The Scientist ARCHIVES

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?