Image of the Day: Artificial Cell

Researchers made a synthetic cell that can photosynthesize and make proteins crucial for cellular structure. 

May 31, 2018
Sukanya Charuchandra

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.