New designer cells could advance treatments for disease and disease

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Credit: ACS Nano 2022

In a new study from Imperial College London, artificial cells have been designed to mimic the natural characteristics of biological cells.

Scientists from the Departments of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry have developed a way of developing artificial cells that mimic how biological cells behave in response to changes in the environment. This could have important implications for our understanding of biology, disease treatment and drug delivery.

Producing such cellular architectures has been one of the ultimate goals of synthetic biology, as it would allow scientists to create designer cells with specific functions that are easier to control and predict than biological ones.

The study was published today in ACS Nano

Basic Biological Characteristics

A fundamental feature of biological cells in all forms of life is the compartmentalization of cells, which can change in response to environmental stimuli. For example, when certain immune cells When they detect a virus, they release subcompartments into their environment, which act as a signal for other types of cells to destroy that virus.

Previous attempts to replicate this dynamic feature of cells have only led to static compartmentalization, which has hampered the biomimetic and technological potential of synthetic cells.

Now a team of synthetic biologists has developed a method to mimic the dynamic features of natural subcompartments in artificial cells, which can exist both inside the cell and externally on the surface.

This could pave the way for advances in the treatment of disease and disease, and in targeted delivery of medicines

Advanced cells

Imperial’s team used a “bottom-up assembly” approach to develop artificial cells with subcompartments, which can respond to chemical stimuli in their environment by changing their internal organization.

They can be designed to spread from the cell surface in response to chemical signals in the environment, or switch to a dispersed state in the cell lumen upon detection of mechanical triggers. These structural rearrangements can be reversible and do not require complex biological machinery.

dr. Yuval Elani, academic leader of this study, says that “biological cells are very dynamic and responsive, which is why they are so advanced. They are constantly changing how materials are arranged inside, in response to their environment. Taking inspiration from biology and incorporating this feature into synthetic systems has great potential in biotechnology and therapies, which is something we now want to leverage.”

Next steps

Understanding how to build dynamic subcompartments in cells as an essential first step in using this technology. Now researchers will have to focus on increasing its biological and technological relevance. For example, by manipulating these synthetic cells to deliver drugs encapsulated in subcompartments.

Lead author Greta Zubaite added that “if an interesting target, say a tumor, has a microenvironment different from that of healthy cellsthe artificial one cells could sense this and use it as a signal to release drug subcompartments. carrying drugs artificial cells can also be designed to allow non-invasive treatment of diseases or conditions on the spot. The research we’ve done is paving the way for these types of treatments.”

Artificial cells respond to changes in the environment

More information:
Greta Zubaite et al, Dynamic Reconfiguration of Subcompartment Architectures in Artificial Cells, ACS Nano (2022). DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.2c02195

Quote: New Designer Cells May Advance Treatments for Disease and Disease (2022, June 13) Retrieved June 13, 2022 from

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