Cells routinely sample their local environment, process this information through internal signaling, and respond accordingly. However, the sheer complexity that underlies cellular behavior makes cells notoriously difficult to understand and control. How can we reach a detailed understanding of complex biological systems? Traditionally, biologists have advanced knowledge by employing a top-down approach starting from a living organism, manipulating it and investigating its responses. This has generated a vast amount of information but has sometimes struggled to isolate the individual mechanisms that make up a complex process. To address these issues, traditional approaches are now being complemented with an engineering-inspired approach. I work on the development of ‘cell-like’ systems component-by-component from the bottom-up. Assembly of cellular building blocks should lead to the reproduction of cellular functions outside a living system, thereby constructing a highly simplified artificial cell. This approach is powerful in understanding how biological systems are built and will help us develop strategies for therapeutic intervention.
(* authors contributed equally)
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HighMag Science blog: http://highmagblog.blogspot.com
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