Reconstructing a synthetic cell
Killing cells is easy …… but could we also reverse the process? As Feynman stated so clearly: “What I cannot build I do not understand”, and to reconstruct a cell from its components is a grand ambition of synthetic biology. However, it is clear that we cannot build a synthetic cell at present. We need to develop a much deeper understanding of how we can couple different dynamic biochemical processes such as gene expression or energy production into one, compartmentalized functional system. For this, we study cell-free gene expression using advanced microfluidics and computational methods to fully characterize the kinetic parameters. At the same time, we are assembling ever more complex modules derived from purified cellular components into liposomes. Our first priority in this project is to make a synthetic cell that grows. For this, we equip liposomes with a minimal genome, with a functional gene expression system, and sufficient membrane transporters to allow key building blocks to be imported into the compartments.
Keywords: synthetic biology, microfluidics, gene networks, cell-free gene expression, microbiology
Key publications: ACS synthetic biology 2020, 9, 2797-2807; ACS synthetic biology 2018, 7, 2879-2887; Nature Nanotechnology, 2018, 13, 849-855; J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2018, 140, 7399-7402; Nature Nanotechnology 2016, 11, 191-197