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Creation of artificial life form moves one step closer

February 3rd, 2012
by Tania

Scientists have moved the possibility of making an artificial life form from scratch a step further with the creation of self-assembling cell membranes.

In nature, cell membranes are created from molecules that have heads that mix with water and tails that repel water. These collectively make a double layer barrier, capable of sequesting the contents of the cell.

Neal Devaraj, assistant professor of chemistry at the University of California, San Diego, and Itay Budin, a graduate student at Harvard University, used a reaction joining two chains of lipids to create a similar molecule.

"In our system, we use a sort of primitive catalyst, a very simple metal ion. The reaction itself is completely artificial. There’s no biological equivalent of this chemical reaction," Professor Devaraj explained.

He added that the simplicity of the reaction may be where the real value of the discovery lies. Professor Debaraj said the step is "trivial and can be done in a day".

Artificial photosynthesis is another major goal for chemists, which recently moved a step closer with the creation of highly efficient electrodes capable of mimicking a key step.

The technique should enhance the use of photo-electrochemical cells, the team from the Empa Institute said.

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