Researchers from the United States have developed synthetic microcapsules that can perform the functions of living cells – to absorb, “digest” and excrete substances. The article of scientists was published in the journal Nature.
Until now, researchers have failed to create analogs of living cells that have the ability to actively transport – transfer of matter through the membrane or layer of cells. Scientists from New York and Chicago Universities created a spherical membrane the size of a lymphocyte from polymers and made a hole in it – thus creating a nanochannel for membrane transport.
The energy required for this process in cells is produced by ATP molecules and mitochondria. The researchers added a photocatalyst to the nanochannel, which, when exposed to ultraviolet light or when the pH changes, creates a region of low pressure, attracting the “load” to the membrane. Turning off the light leaves the substance in the membrane to be “recycled”. The reverse process allows the load to be pushed outward.
The development has shown its efficiency in a number of experiments. In one of them, artificial cells have successfully purified water from contaminants. In another, the microcapsule was able to “swallow” Escherichia coli, which, according to the researchers, suggests that it can be used as an antibacterial agent. An artificial cell can also be used for drug delivery.