How to Make Artificial Cells

People have studied cells for centuries. We know exactly what cells are made of, from their DNA and RNA to the watery cytoplasm to the lipids and proteins that make up the membrane. Shouldn’t we be able to make an artificial cell by combining those ingredients in a test tube?

So far, the answer is no. Making a cell from scratch is not as easy as mixing eggs, butter, flour, and sugar to make cookies.

Although we know which chemicals are essential to life, we cannot simply blend them and wait for living cells to appear. That’s because life is an emergent property of interacting molecules. These intricate relationships are extremely complex, and no one has ever controlled the participants with enough precision to craft a living cell. If biologists ever do learn to make artificial cells, they could have practical uses. For example, with the right DNA, the cells could be coaxed to churn out biofuels, vaccines, and many other products.

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