Researchers from the Eindhoven University of Technology in Netherlands have developed artificial cells that use enzymes to move like real cells and navigate complex environments, according to a study published today in ACS Central Science.
Cells maintain a form of homeostasis so that they can accomplish their designated tasks whether their fuel level is low or high. The research group observed that mirroring the techniques cells use to maintain homeostasis can propel non-living nano-objects in complex and changing environments.
“The cellular environment can be regarded as a highly complex medium, in which numerous multi-step enzymatic processes take place simultaneously with unsurpassed efficiency and specificity,” the team wrote. “One of the most striking characteristics of enzymatic reaction networks in living systems is their ability to generate a sustained output under out-of-equilibrium conditions as a result of built-in regulatory mechanisms.”
Researchers modeled the known regulatory networks of enzymes to determine how much of each enzyme would be needed to keep an artificial cell moving. Once they knew what the nano-object needed, researchers put together artificial cells with the necessary components. When fuel was available and the cells contained all the required enzymes, the team saw that the artificial cells moved in a directed way.
Nano-objects that can navigate the complexities of the human body in a targeted, direct way could be an essential component for next-gen drug delivery technology. The team suggests their concept could also be applied to many other fuel-dependent characteristics of life beyond movement.