With synthetic biology racing ahead with the creation of “artificial” organisms such as Mycoplasma laboratorium, this recent review provides a nice level headed summary of the potential and difficulties of such research.
Semi-synthetic minimal cells: origin and recent developments. (2013) Curr Opin Biotechnol. pii: S0958-1669(13)00005-0. doi: 10.1016/j.copbio.2013.01.002
The notion of minimal cells refers to cellular structures that contain the minimal and sufficient complexity to still be defined as living, or at least capable to display the most important features of biological cells. Here we briefly describe the laboratory construction of minimal cells, a project within the broader field of synthetic biology. In particular we discuss the advancements in the preparation of semi-synthetic cells based on the encapsulation of biochemicals inside liposomes, illustrating from the one hand the origin of this research and the most recent developments; and from the other the difficulties and limits of the approach. The role of physicochemical understandings is greatly emphasized.