Prof. Dr. Reinhard Lipowsky

Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, Am Mühlenberg 1, 14476 Potsdam-Golm, Germany


Title: Bottom-up approach to  synthetic cells

All living cells are based on the same kind of biomolecules and use the same kind of supramolecular organization which provides strong evidence for a common ancestor from which these cells have evolved. Today's cells have a rather complex molecular architecture but it seems rather likely that  this complexity has emerged in a step-wise manner, via the integration of simpler building blocks or modules. We can hardly unravel the supramolecular evolution as it actually happened a few billion years ago, but it may be possible to construct synthetic cells that share the most important features of the supramolecular organization found in today's cells. This bottom-up approach, which is based on the assembly of biomolecules and supramolecular modules,  is complementary to the construction of minimal cells as obtained by the genetic simplification of  unicellular organisms. The talk will discuss some recent successes of the bottom-up approach and some of the basic challenges faced by this approach.