Chemical communication between synthetic and natural cells: a possible experimental design.

Giordano Rampioni
(Science Dept. University Roma Tre)
Luisa Damiano
(Univ. Bergamo)
Marco Messina
(Science Dept. University Roma Tre)
Francesca D'Angelo
(Science Dept. University Roma Tre)
Livia Leoni
(Science Dept. University Roma Tre)
Pasquale Stano
(Science Dept. University Roma Tre)

The bottom-up construction of synthetic cells is one of the most intriguing and interesting research arenas in synthetic biology. Synthetic cells are built by encapsulating biomolecules inside lipid vesicles (liposomes), allowing the synthesis of one or more functional proteins. Thanks to the in situ synthesized proteins, synthetic cells become able to perform several biomolecular functions, which can be exploited for a large variety of applications. This paves the way to several advanced uses of synthetic cells in basic science and biotechnology, thanks to their versatility, modularity, biocompatibility, and programmability. In the previous WIVACE (2012) we presented the state-of-the-art of semi-synthetic minimal cell (SSMC) technology and introduced, for the first time, the idea of chemical communication between synthetic cells and natural cells. The development of a proper synthetic communication protocol should be seen as a tool for the nascent field of bio/chemical-based Information and Communication Technologies (bio-chem-ICTs) and ultimately aimed at building soft-wet-micro-robots. In this contribution (WIVACE, 2013) we present a blueprint for realizing this project, and show some preliminary experimental results. We firstly discuss how our research goal (based on the natural capabilities of biological systems to manipulate chemical signals) finds a proper place in the current scientific and technological contexts. Then, we shortly comment on the experimental approaches from the viewpoints of (i) synthetic cell construction, and (ii) bioengineering of microorganisms, providing up-to-date results from our laboratory. Finally, we shortly discuss how autopoiesis can be used as a theoretical framework for defining synthetic minimal life, minimal cognition, and as bridge between synthetic biology and artificial intelligence.

In Alex Graudenzi, Giulio Caravagna, Giancarlo Mauri and Marco Antoniotti: Proceedings Wivace 2013 - Italian Workshop on Artificial Life and Evolutionary Computation (Wivace 2013), Milan, Italy, July 1-2, 2013, Electronic Proceedings in Theoretical Computer Science 130, pp. 14–26.
Published: 30th September 2013.

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