Over the past few decades, several protocell models have been developed that mimic certain essential characteristics of living cells. These protocells tend to be highly reductionist simplifications of living cells with prominent bilayer membrane boundaries, encapsulated metabolisms and/or encapsulated biologically-derived polymers as potential sources of information coding. In parallel with this conventional work, a novel protocell model based on droplets is also being developed. Such water-in-oil and oil-in-water droplet systems can possess chemical and biochemical transformations and biomolecule production, self-movement, self-division, individuality, group dynamics, and perhaps the fundamentals of intelligent systems and evolution. Given the diverse functionality possible with droplets as mimics of living cells, this system has the potential to be the first true embodiment of artificial life that is an orthologous departure from the one familiar type of biological life. This paper will synthesize the recent activity to develop droplets as protocell models.
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