New research suggests pathway towards emergence of living cells

The cell membrane plays a crucial role for the function of biological cells. Understanding how cell-like membrane compartments can form can give important clues to how life on earth emerged. Researchers at the University of Oslo have now demonstrated how colonies-like structures spontaneously grow from lipid deposits, which they show in the scientific article Colony-like Protocell Superstructures. In the article, the group of scientists led by Dr. Irep Gözen, show that the colony-like superstructures are highly dynamic and able to disassemble and form daughter protocells that can migrate and form connections to distant locations on the surface.

An important part of the proposed development from non-living protocells to living cells in the ability take up molecules from the surrounding. Once internalized, absorbed molecules can perform functions or carry genetic information. To test this, Irep Gözen and her group used BioPen to deliver DNA molecules directly to the protocell colonies. The researchers discovered that the colonies were able to internalize the delivered DNA molecules. They also observed that the encapsulated molecules were also able to undergo reactions inside the protocells. The results point towards a pathway in which primitive cells could have been formed on the early earth. The researchers suggest that the ability to form colony-like superstructures could constitute a survival advantage by providing increased stability and capacity to form subcompartments to host a more diverse range of functions. As Katke et al. writes,

“Membranous protocell superstructures which can uptake chemical compounds and maintain them in secluded spaces may enable the development of prebiotic containers with an increasing set of functions and features toward primitive forms of life.”

We at Fluicell congratulate Dr. Gözen and her team on their achievement. We are delighted that they have chosen to use BioPen in their intriguing and groundbreaking research.

Read the article in ACS Nano: