There are two approaches that can be taken up while building an artificial cell: a) reengineering the genomic software of a living cell and b) focusing on cellular hardware, creating simple, cell-like structures from the very beginning, which mimic the functionality of living cells. Ironically, in the second approach, the biggest challenge is to mimic the intricate biological and chemical reactions needed for cells to carry out complex behaviors. A team of scientist from Sogang University and Harvard University have recently designed and developed a cell-like structure, which harnesses photosynthesis to carry out metabolic reactions, such as carbon fixation, energy harvesting, and cytoskeleton formation. Nature Biotechnology has published this research study.
Kit Parker, a Professor of Applied Physics and Bioengineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the co-principle investigator of this project, stated that this research, which is a part of a rewarding collaboration between the Sogang University and the Harvard University, opens up various different fronts on what more can be done at the cellular level. To create this synthetic system, the scientist team developed a photosynthetic organelle from unique components of the plant as well as the animal world. “The team has activated the metabolic activity with light, created an on-demand protein network within a living cell, and packed all the components needed for doing this into one cell,” he added. Prof. Parker also holds the Core Faculty membership of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and the Harvard Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.