Scientists Explore the Creation of Artificial Organelles

The human body is made of numerous different types of cells, which have small compartments known as organelles to perform complex biochemical reactions. These compartments have multiple enzymes that work together to execute important cellular functions. Researchers at the Center for Soft and Living Matter within the Institute for Basic Science (IBS, South Korea) have successfully mimicked these Nano spatial compartments to create ‘artificial mitochondria’ in the latest research published in Nature Catalysis as a cover article. They state the technology can be used to construct artificial organelles that can supply ATP or other useful molecules to cells in damaged or diseased tissues.

Scientists-explore-the-creation-of-artificial-organellesCredits to: Institute for Basic Science

This was achieved through reprogramming of ‘exosomes’, which are small vesicles (diameter ~120 nm) that cells use for intercellular signaling. The researchers carried out the experiments using microfluidic droplet reactors, which generated small droplets that were of similar size as typical cells. (diameter ~10 μm) The researchers first aimed to facilitate controlled fusion of these exosomes within the droplets while preventing unwanted fusions.

They accomplished this by tailoring the exosome surfaces with molecules called catechol, which is a chelating agent that forms complexes with metal ions. This was in turn done by attaching the catechol onto antibodies that target specific cell markers, such as CD9. The complex-forming property of catechol allows them to drive fusions between exosomes when they are mixed with metal ions such as Fe3+. The membrane fusion occurs when the catechols on the surfaces bind to the iron and bring the vesicles to close proximity to one another.

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DOI: 10.1038/s41929-021-00669-z

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