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‘Protocells’ show ability to reproduce

Artificial blobs could provide clues to early evolution

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11:08am, September 29, 2015
protocells

CELL MIMIC   Protocells — lab-made spheres of genetic material and membrane — can mimic the reproduction of early cells. When provided with necessary chemicals, a protocell — itself produced by a round of division — can split itself in two in 8.5 minutes. 

Man-made balls of genetic material and membranes can pull off a decent impression of primitive cells. 

These squishy spheres known as “protocells” can accept chemical deliveries to sustain a division process that mimics that of living cells, researchers in Japan report September 29 in Nature Communications. These cell-like creations may be a step toward making future protocells that can imitate evolution, the scientists say.

The results offer clues to how living cells developed their ability to reproduce, says study coauthor Tadashi Sugawara, a physical organic chemist at Kanagawa University in Japan. Like the cells within plants and animals, these protocells have four stages in their division process, Sugawara says. The real living cells and the protocells both have a replication stage and division stage. But instead of two growth phases, these protocells have an “ingestion

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