Special Issue "Protocells - Designs for Life"
Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 July 2014).
Interests: giant lipid vesicles; light transduction; compartimentalized chemical reacting systems; stochastic effects
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Over the last few decades, the study of liposome-based minimal cell models has gained prominence in an interdisciplinary field concerning the origins of life and synthetic biology. These models have stimulated, and continue to stimulate, a large number of scientists, whose contributions are complementary.
From an experimental point of view, several approaches are currently under scrutiny, from the semi-synthetic cell model, to one that is strictly prebiotic, to the fully synthetic one. Despite the apparent diversity in this research field, recent efforts and discoveries have collectively contributed to increasing our knowledge of the physico-chemical conditions that promoted the transition from non-living to living matter; this knowledge sheds light on the origin of early cells on earth and at the same time, enables novel advancements in synthetic cell technology that might be useful for applicative research.
On the other hand, the structure of these cell model systems, whose complexity is sufficient for displaying emergent properties (but at the same time is “minimal”), can also be studied via detailed in silico models with both deterministic and stochastic approaches. These computational studies, especially when based on realistic hypotheses or on parameters inferred by experimental data, allow for the exploration of dynamical behaviors that can be difficult to investigate experimentally. The studies can also be useful for elucidating the effects of reaction compartmentalization and the rule of random fluctuations on protocell population dynamics.
Altogether, in silico and in vitro investigations are paving the way to a novel research arena that appears to be both very rich (thanks to its intrinsic interdisciplinary character) and promising (because only via synthetic/constructive approaches is it possible to enquire about the features of simple, early cells). This approach also stimulates more theoretical considerations with respect to intriguing questions, such as “what is life?” and further supports abiogenesis as the best theoretical framework, from a scientific viewpoint, for understanding the emergence of living systems on Earth.
Therefore, the study of minimal cell models is now an exciting multidisciplinary area of research mainly aimed at identifying the physico-chemical constraints (or unexpected and helpful emerging features) that are pertinent to the organization of dynamic chemical networks inside micro-compartments. This Special Issue covers all aspects of minimal cell models(i.e., experimental and computational models). The submission of scientific perspectives, comprehensive reviews or research articles is most welcome.
Prof. Dr. Fabio Mavelli
Dr. Pasquale Stano
Manuscript Submission Information
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- artificial cells
- cell-free systems
- emergence of life
- minimal cells
- origin of life
- random fluctuations effect
- stochastic simulations