Saturday, May 20, 2006

"Cell-free gene expression in synthetic vesicles" - Vincent Noireaux

To build a cell you could start from the top down and reduce it's genome to the minimum size: ~400 genes.

Or you could take a bottom-up approach and attempt to build a cell molecule-by-molecule with the "molecules of life."

The idea is to develop an artificial cell as a programmable phospholipid vesicle, with the DNA as software and translation/transcription machinery as hardware. To follow with this computer science characterization, if you consider the entire cell a computer, then the idea is to simply format it's "natural" hard-drive and install your own rudimentary operating system, presumably because the computers behavior would be much easier to control and predict. Note that this approach to engineering useful systems is in direct conflict with Dr. Gardner's philosophy of utilizing the genetic circuits that have already successfully evolved.

Actually, that analogy is somewhat misleading, because Noireaux's work was really about building the simplest possible "synthetic cell." They developed or extended an emulsion technique so that they could incorporate into the the little "synthetic" phospholipid bubble different proteins and chemicals, such that they experimentally produced a synthetic vesicle containing translational machinery to produce green fluorescent protein. They observed its expression last for 4 days in lab.

How do you make a synthetic vesicle?
  1. Reaction in microfuge tube (CFE-DNA-RNAP)
  2. Add oil
  3. vortex to make many little droplets of phospholipid monolayers
  4. some trick to get all that translational machinery into the emulsion.

1 comment:

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