The emergence of cellular life is one of the major transitions in evolution. It involves the emergence of a well-defined boundary allowing metabolism and genetic information to be part of a well-defined compartment. Theoretical models and experimental data support the idea that simple protocells should be obtainable from a simple systems of coupled reactions dealing with the three previous components. The building of an artificial cell would be a fundamental breakthrough in our understanding of life, its origins and evolution, not to mention a wide array of potential medical and technological applications.


Models of Protocells

Understanding the origins of life requires the understanding of a few key events that define the so called major transitions in evolution. One of them is the emergence of cellular structures. Cellularization allowed the emergence of separated compartments (the protocells) able to evolve and maintain a well-defined integrity of all the components. Our Lab (the Complex Systems Lab) has been working at different levels, particularly from the theoretical perspective, modeling protocell dynamics and their possible evolution, the evolution of protocellular networks, with specific emphasis in exploring the role of noise on their behavior.

These cells will be much smaller and simpler than modern cells and eventually will allow to create the foundations for information processing in living nano-materials. They can be thought as nano-robots, performing at the molecular scale. As such, these artificial cells will embody extremely simple versions of biochemical networks, weighting many orders of magnitude less than the smallest modern cells. Given the small numbers of copies intrinsic to the nanoscale involved, it is important to understand the limits imposed by small copy numbers to reliable replication, stability and computation.

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European Center for Living Technology

The Center will conduct a research, outreach and training program designed to equip a new generation of scientists and engineers to take advantage of programmable artificial cell evolution. The new European Center for Living Technology is to be established in Venice, supported by the European Union, the city of Venice, and the University of Venice Ca Foscari.

Researchers will be invited to the Center to collaborate on PACE and related multidisciplinary projects involving living technology. The Center will also proactively foster informed public discussion of the novel social, safety and ethical issues raised by living technology.

Applicants with appropriate educational background should have an ongoing institutional affiliation and plan to make a definite contribution to the PACE project in collaboration with one or more partners during their visit to the Center.

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Virtual Lab

The Virtual Lab is a wiki that seeks to integrate the scientific reports around the software tools developed by the theoretical and computational working groups integrating the European PACE Project FP6-002035 (Programmable Artificial Cell Evolution).


Nanobiology Sites