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World-First Working Eukaryotic Cell Made From Plastic 109

Zothecula writes "Previously, chemists have managed to create artificial cell walls and developed synthetic DNA to produce self-replicating, synthetic bacterial cells. Now, for the first time, researchers have used polymers to produce an artificial eukaryotic cell capable of undertaking multiple chemical reactions through working organelles."
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World-First Working Eukaryotic Cell Made From Plastic

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  • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @06:31AM (#45984097)

    What scientist could resist? I picture one in the lab, cackling wildly, "It's alive. IT'S ALIVE!"

  • by vikingpower ( 768921 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @06:32AM (#45984107) Homepage Journal
    I am dressed in organic materials: membranes out wool, nylon, cotton that protect me from outside agressions. I have organelles that are clearly distinct from eachother: liver, spleen, heart, brains. I convert various sugars into chemical energy. And I have a function within the greater collection of my peers which we call a "society", instead of a "body". And hell yes, I produce waste: code.
    • by jma05 ( 897351 )

      You forgot to cover the membrane bound nucleus (or nuclei since you presumably have two down there) hosting your genetic material - pretty important for the definition of a Eukaryote.

  • Not a cell (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sandertje ( 1748324 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @06:34AM (#45984119)
    Without their creation being able to replicate, it is essentially not a cell. All they've done now is having made a compartmentalized catalyst.
    • Re:Not a cell (Score:5, Informative)

      by cnettel ( 836611 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @06:38AM (#45984143)
      In other words, they made very neat bags of mostly water.
    • Re:Not a cell (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @06:39AM (#45984149)

      Blame the university's press department, as always. There's quite a jump in hyperbole between the Ange [] and Nature Chem's comments [], versus the press release []. Why do journalists even read university press releases any more? You know they're going to be misleading.

    • Why would the need to self-replicate define a cell? Are you no longer alive if you get a vasectomy? Is a mule not alive because it can't have viable offspring?
      • No, but a car isn't alive because no car can self-replicate.

        Aside from that, I think you've strayed off topic. A mule is not a cell, and a human is not a cell. A vasectomy has no bearing whatsoever on whether a thing needs to be self-replicating in order to be a cell. The biological definition of cell given by wikipedia is "Cells are the smallest unit of life that can replicate independently, and are often called the "building blocks of life"." I'm sure you can find a definition that doesn't include sel

        • No, but a car isn't alive because no car can self-replicate.

          Who's the one straying off topic? A car isn't alive, not because of its inablity to self-replicate, but because it doesn't respond to stimuli, change in response to its envorinment, grow, etc. It's a simple machine. Life has stuck around for so long on Earth because it self-replicates, but that doesn't mean something needs to self-replicate in order for it to be alive. For me, whether this artificial cell can self-replicate has little bearing on its complexity. It can still be artificial life without that

          • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

            From wikipedia:
            Since there is no unequivocal definition of life, the current understanding is descriptive. Life is considered a characteristic of organisms that exhibit all or most of the following characteristics or traits:[32][34][35]

            1.Homeostasis: Regulation of the internal environment to maintain a constant state; for example, electrolyte concentration or sweating to reduce temperature.
            2.Organization: Being structurally composed of one or more cells â" the basic units of life.
            3.Metabolism: T

    • Why is that required? Are red blood cells not cells?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by sandertje ( 1748324 )
        This is pure semantics, but indeed, red blood cells are a bit of misnomer. Their only function is transporting oxygen. Basically they are a vesicle filled with haemoglobin. Essentially, red blood cells are as much 'cell' as platelets are. The complication that arises here is that the non-mammalian counterpart DOES have a nucleus and organelles; and as such IS a normal cell.
    • It won't be long before that happens. It's been possible for a while now to make a mitotic spindle without a cell (mitotic spindle being the thing that splits DNA to put one in each cell.) It's also been possible for a while now to make micelles [] which are essentially the membrane around a cell which can behave much like cells. Recently the two have been combined [], making artificial spindles inside such droplets.

      The second part of mitosis (cell replication) is the cell itself splitting, cytokinesis. It []
  • No, they did not (Score:5, Informative)

    by jw3 ( 99683 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @06:47AM (#45984187) Homepage

    Again, the press release is misleading. Worse, it fires back on the real and great accomplishment by suggesting it is something that it is not.

    The scientists managed to squeeze key enzymes into different minuscule compartments of a cell-like structure. That in itself is fascinating and a great achievement; but that doesn't make an eukaryotic cell. It does not replicate; it does not synthesize the lipid-like structures; it lacks a cytoskeleton and a complex organization; the reactions going on are few and very simple. It is as much an eukaryotic cell as a neural net algorithm is a working brain.

    However, it has working enzymes within little bubbles within other bubbles, which can be called "compartmentalization", a feature of eukaryotic cells that distinguish them from bacterial cells.

    Nonetheless, this is a considerable achievment that has both a practical side and is a working model with potential to make in vitro experiments helping to understand the processes that go on in the real cells.

    • It's mind-boggling if you consider what it would take to actually create an artificial cell.
      You would take the most advanced programmable manufacturing plant -- perhaps one that creates any drug and is yet to be designed. Not only would it have to be able to request supplies and may anything required to repair itself, and perhaps create a new factory, you would have to shrink it down to --- the size of a cell.

      I think we will develop artificial intelligence well before we will ever create an artificial cell.

      • by TheLink ( 130905 )

        I think we will develop artificial intelligence well before we will ever create an artificial cell. Borrowing the natural systems that have already perfected this process is quite a bit easier.

        The popular assumption appears to be that cells (including neurons) are stupid and just react to their environment without much processing. And intelligence is mainly emergent from networks of neurons, and so many AI researchers work from those assumptions.

        But as you said a cell is quite complicated. So it seems presumptuous to assume they're stupid without even knowing most of the details on how they make decisions. How does a white blood cell decide where to head to chase down a bacterium? Which part make

    • So if they were to find a way to make such a "cell" reproduce autonomously would that make it a eukaryotic cell?
  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @07:27AM (#45984343) Homepage
    Thats nothing. we've created an entire marine organism made of plastic. [] we track its age (it was born in 1988) and migratory habits throughout the seasons. we also monitor its feeding patterns and chart its growth too. remarkably enough it has almost no known predator, but seems enirely peaceful.

    it might not really be alive but...i want to believe.
  • Silicone life is born.
  • This will be the technology that the dominant AI of the future will use ... to infiltrate our brains and make us mindless slaves to its will.

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