From chemicals to life: Scientists try to build cells from scratch

A growing number of collaborations are melding their efforts together in pursuit of an audacious goal: building a living cell out of non-living molecules.

Various scientists around the world are trying to build cells from scratch. Marileen Dogterom has been piecing together a cytoskeleton in the Netherlands. Kate Adamala is attaching receptors to a lipid bilayer in Minnesota. And Tetsuya Yomo built RNA that can evolve like the real thing in Japan.

But by and large they’ve been working independently on different cell parts. Now, a growing number of collaborations are melding these efforts together and speeding progress toward an audacious goal: building a living cell out of non-living molecules.

It’s an idea that’s been bandied about for decades, but scientists say recent technological advances have rendered viable what was once a pipe dream. A cell constructed from the ground up would let researchers better test drugs, enable bioengineers to build the next generation of cellular machines, and help biologists answer the fundamental question: What does it mean to be alive?

And funders and university administrators are increasingly backing such a goal. A 25 million euro Dutch project across six universities to work on building a synthetic

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