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Biotech Science

UCSD Researchers Create Artificial Cell Membrane 54

cylonlover writes with an excerpt from a Gizmag article: "The cell membrane is one of the most important components of a cell because it separates the interior from the environment and controls the movement of substances in and out of the cell. In a move that brings mankind another step closer to being able to create artificial life forms from scratch, chemists from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and Harvard University have created artificial self-assembling cell membranes using a novel chemical reaction. The chemists hope their creation will help shed light on the origins of life." The full paper is available in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (behind a paywall).
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UCSD Researchers Create Artificial Cell Membrane

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  • UCSD Bioeng (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ShakaUVM ( 157947 )

    Neat. I used to work for the UCSD Bioengineering department. Many, many smart people worked there. Much more so than the San Diego Supercomputer Center during the tech boom (half the people they hired during that time period were people who'd read a "Learn Programming in 30 Days" book, or whatever, because anyone with any skills were going into industry).

    It's always nice to see their work getting press.

  • by Sneeze1066 ( 1574313 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @04:24AM (#38874805)
    ....where researchers will attempt to insert "insane" into membrane.
    • ....where researchers will attempt to insert "insane" into membrane.

      No, that happens automatically, when some passing demon notices the soulless organism and decides to take up residency.

      Then the screaming begins.

      • I think you need to make an appointment with your witch doctor, your bodily humors appear to be out of balance and I think a gnome is dancing on your spleen.
    • ....where researchers will attempt to insert "insane" into membrane.

      That's easy: When they keep making them the same way, but expect different results.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Well, this also sounds like counterfeiting. Did the cells signed the ACTA as well?

    • Who you tryin to get crazy with, doctor? Don't you know I'm loco? [biomedcentral.com]
    • by Chemisor ( 97276 )

      You have to be a mad scientist to do that

  • sigh... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @04:41AM (#38874863)

    We're finally figuring out the origin of life, with less than a year left for us.

    • It's okay. The people who study the end of the world and the people who study the beginning are mutually exclusive groups. No one of consequence will be smitten by Nibiru, only the true believers.
    • We're finally figuring out the origin of life, with less than a year left for us.

      And thanks to the singularity in the speed of progress of scientific research, we may just make it in time for the big show.

  • This is interesting chemistry, but has not got much to do with life or realistic cell membranes.
    • The suggestion, at least from the blurb, is that this may have been important to the origins of life. And how does it not have much to do with realistic cell membranes? You have a phospholipid bilayer with these things. That's the same thing as cell membranes basically, throw in some proteins (researchers have been adding proteins to artificial bilayers for decades) and you can get them to do exactly the same things that cell membranes do.

      It's a bit like saying "This brick wall you've just made out of
      • by louic ( 1841824 )
        I read the actual article and the authors have used a chemical reaction (that is not the same as the one used in nature), to make lipids (but not the actual ones that nature makes). Once they got the lipids the bilayer forms itself, but that is nothing new. The reaction is carried out in water, and the substrates are not reactive unless a catalyst is added, which leads them to claim that this is more "natural" than a standard chemical reaction. Using the word "life" or "nature" in this context is IMHO not
        • Well, they say it is biomimetic. It's about as close as anybody ever gets. The important part is that the properties of the artificial membranes (at least the ones they measured) are the same as for the natural membranes they were trying to mimic. It's a JACS communication, so there isn't a lot of detail, but it looks like a pretty good model. There are a lot of potential uses, not the least of which is they can more easily study how additional components in the membrane (ex: proteins) affect its properties

          • by louic ( 1841824 )

            There are a lot of potential uses, not the least of which is they can more easily study how additional components in the membrane (ex: proteins) affect its properties.

            To do that you can simply order or purify actual natural lipids. The research is not without merit but I doubt that it will help to study "natural" membranes. It may have other uses though.

            • No. In fact, they mention in the paper that is fairly difficult to do. Knowing something about the enzyme megacomplexes that catalyze these reactions, I believe them. Hence why they developed this system, and why it made it into JACS (click chemistry by itself is nothing new). Overall, the triazole would not be expected to drastically affect the properties of the membrane, which they affirm by measuring a handful of bulk properties. So I think it's a pretty good model.

  • . . . we did this in high school Biology with hotdog casing.

  • What's this membrane they're talking about? A soap bubble is a membrane for godssakes.
  • Althought the paper manages not to mention it, the chemistry they are doing here is (the alkyne azide cyclisation) is part of "click" chemistry [wikipedia.org], which is quite well known.

    What the paper doesn't really say is whether they hope to accomplish anything further with this. As with all biomimetic reaction, it seems (to me) that synthesising a single step in the process may be intersting, without doing all the previous steps, is there any practical point?
    • From the paper,

      The minimal nature of our approach will likely lend itself to further elaboration, as we envision incorporating this system into a fully synthetic cell. We are also exploring practical applications of triazole membrane assembly, for instance in packaging and delivering therapeutics, improving transfection efficiencies, reconstituting functional membrane proteins, and performing confined biochemical reactions.

Sigmund Freud is alleged to have said that in the last analysis the entire field of psychology may reduce to biological electrochemistry.