Biological and Medicinal Chemistry

On Multicellular Lipid Compartments and Their Electrical Activity

Shin-ichiro Nomura Department of Robotics, Graduate School of Engineering, Tohoku University


In this manuscript, we report our ground-breaking result on development of artificial multicellular structures capable for neuron like spiking activity. These structures are self-growing ensembles of vesicles whose membranes are combinations of phospholipid and viscous amphipathic molecules. The vesicles grow from a porous gel, and an osmotic pressure difference between the interior of the gel and its surrounding drives the growth. The vesicles’ membranes have also incorporated pore forming proteins. The growing ensembles exhibit spike-like dynamics in electrical potential recorded on the electrodes inserted in the ensembles. We speculate that the spike-like electrical activity is due to the breaking and leaking of the compartments, fusion, and fission of the vesicles during the growth. We demonstrate the spontaneous growth of multi-cellular lipid compartments, which can also incorporate liposomes with membrane proteins, and their generation of an electrical spike-like signal. The bottom-up development of a multicellular artificial molecular system like this report would lead the transition of material's complexity toward information transfer emulating that of a nervous system.

The evidence of neuromorphic electrical activity in multicellular systems of lipid vesicles is a promising indication of feasibility of future designs of self-growing artificial proto-brains. We, therefore, think that this manuscript should attract outstanding interest from the wide community of scientists, engineers and laymen, especially those interested in in artificial life, molecular computing, origins of life, artificial cell, molecular robotics, and synthetic biology.


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