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Synthetic Cellularity via Protocell Design of Soft Matter Interfaces

Recent progress in the chemical construction of micro-compartmentalized colloidal objects comprising integrated biomimetic functions is paving the way towards rudimentary forms of artificial cell-like entities (protocells) for modelling complex biological systems, exploring the origin of life, and advancing future proto-living technologies.
When Feb 16, 2018
from 04:00 PM to 05:00 PM
Where Small Lecture Theatre, Cavendish Lab
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Although several new types of protocells are currently available, the design of synthetic protocell communities and investigation of their collective properties has received little attention. In this talk, Prof. Mann will review some recent experiments undertaken in my laboratory that demonstrate simple forms of higher-order dynamic behaviour in synthetic protocells. He will discuss four new areas of investigation: (i) Enzyme-powered motility and collective migration in buoyant organoclay/DNA protocells [1]; (ii) artificial predatory behaviour in mixed populations of proteinosomes and coacervate micro-droplets [2]; (iii) artificial phagocytosis behaviour in a binary population of magnetic and silica colloidosomes [3], and (iv) chemical communication in ordered protocell communities [4]. Prof. Mann will use these new model systems to discuss pathways towards chemical cognition, modulated reactivity, basic signalling pathways and non-equilibrium activation in compartmentalized artificial micro-ensembles.

References: [1] Kumar P, Patil A J Mann S. Enzyme-powered motility in buoyant organoclay/DNA protocells. under review 119 (2017). [2] Qiao Y, Li M, Booth R and Mann S. Predatory behaviour in synthetic protocell communities. Nature Chemistry 9,110–119 (2017). [3] Rodríguez-Arco L, Li M and Mann S. Artificial phagocytosis in synthetic protocell communities of compartmentalized colloidal objects. Nature Materials, 16, 857-863 (2017). [4] Tian L, et.al., Spontaneous assembly of chemically encoded two-dimensional coacervate droplet arrays by acoustic wave patterning. Nature Commun. 7, 13068, (2016)

Stephen Mann is Professor of Chemistry at the University of Bristol UK and distinguished for contributions to biomineralization, bioinspired materials chemistry and protocell research. Prof Mann was elected Fellow of the Royal Society UK (2003), awarded the RSC de Gennes Prize (2011), SCF French-British Prize (2011) and Royal Society Davy Medal (2016), and was visiting professor at the College de France (2009) and Harvard University (2011). He has published over 500 scientific papers with a h index > 115.

 This talk is part of the BSS Formal Seminars series.

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The Synthetic Biology Strategic Research Initiative provides a hub for anyone interested in Synthetic Biology at the University of Cambridge, including researchers, commercial partners and external collaborators.