Answer to Question #111758 in Cell Biology for MAKHUOGA ALFRED FRIDAY

Question #111758
Keeping in mind the relationship between structure and function, discuss the potential uses of artificial cells and/or cell like materials and whether you consider them to be a good substitute for the natural versions.
Expert's answer

Artificial cells have attracted attention as substitutes for natural cells. There are many different forms of artificial cells from nano- to macro-scale. They can be integral biological cell imitators with cell-like structures and exhibit some of the key characteristics of living cells. Alternatively, they can be engineered materials that only mimic some of the properties of cells, such as surface characteristics, shapes, morphology, or a few specific functions. 

Various biologically active materials can be encapsulated in semipermeable polymer-based artificial cells, individually or in combination. The semipermeable membrane can protect these materials from being degraded or affected by external environment and prevent them from leaking out to contaminate the body fluids. The membrane has a selective permeability to small substrate molecules and can also release products to the environment. Thus artificial cell membranes can now be formed using a variety of synthetic or biological materials to produce desired variations in their permeability, surface properties, and blood compatibility. Almost any material can be included within artificial cells. These include: enzyme systems, cell extracts, biological cells, magnetic materials, isotopes, antigens, antibodies, vaccines, hormones, adsorbents, hemoglobin, drugs, microorganisms, gene for gene therapy, genetically engineered cells, etc.

Artificial cells can have applications in many fields from medicine to environment, and may be useful in constructing the theory of the origin of life. Clinical applications include the use of such cells as a red blood cell substitute, in an artificial kidney or artificial liver, as detoxifiers, in an artificial pancreas, and so on. The principle of the artificial cells is also being used in biotechnology to immobilize enzymes and cells. Developments in biotechnology have also resulted in the use of the principle underlying the artificial cell to help produce interferons and monoclonal antibodies; to create immunosorbents; to develop an artificial pancreas; and to bring enzyme technology usefully into biotechnology and biomedical applications. Artificial cells are also being used as drug delivery systems based on slow release, on magnetic target delivery, on biodegradability, on liposomes, or other approaches. 

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