Protocells—artificial cells—that are active and mimic living cells by moving independently and that are biocompatible and enzymatically active are now possible using an improved method developed by Penn State researchers.



Living cells are difficult to grow in the laboratory, so researchers sometimes work with , but these have had research limitations because they lack real cell characteristics.


"One of the challenges of cell research is it's sometimes very hard to run controlled experiments on a cell's motility, especially due to surface activity," said Darrell Velegol, distinguished professor of chemical engineering. "The research team developed a simple way to make an artificial cell that doesn't do everything a regular cell does, like reproduce, have genetic mutations or anything like that, but it actively moves. That's important because how cells move is poorly understood, especially how enzymes' activity play into ."

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