Basic features of early artificial cells

Earlier artificial cells have some of the simpler properties of biological cells (Fig. 2.1). Some examples of the basic features are:

(1) The membrane of an artificial cell separates its content from the outside. At the same time, the membrane can be prepared such that it can selectively allow different types of molecules to cross it. This ranges from membrane that does not allow any molecules to cross it to those that allow even very large molecules like proteins to cross it. In between these two extremes, there are artificial cell

Fig. 2.1. Upper: Basic principles of early artificial cells. Middle: Different types of early artificial cells based on these basic principles. Lower: Present status of artificial cells with wide variations in contents, membrane material and dimensions.

membranes that restrict the movement of molecules according to molecular size, lipid solubility, affinity to carrier mechanisms, etc.

  • 2) Artificial cell membranes can be very thin, yet strong and have a large surface area. Thus, 10 ml of 20¡m diameter artificial cells has a total surface area of 2500 cm2. This is the same as the total membrane surface area of an artificial kidney machine. In addition, an artificial cell membrane is 100 times thinner than that of an artificial kidney membrane. This means that smaller molecules can move across 10 ml of 20¡m diameter artificial cells 100 times faster than that across an artificial kidney machine (Chang, 1966). The microscopic size of artificial cells also allows material to diffuse rapidly inside the artificial cells.
  • 3) Artificial cells can contain the same biological material as biological cells. In addition, they are more versatile since adsorbents, magnetic materials, cells, drugs and other material can also be included separately or in combination (Fig. 2.1).

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