For some time now synthetic biologists have creating artificial cells, made from biologically occurring or synthesised components.

These artificial cells mimic biological cells in terms of their shape, size or function but so far it has not been possible to create artificial cells that have the interior complexity of a biological cell.

Biological cells have a variety of internal compartments, each with specific functions and properties. It is important to be able to mimic these internal compartments so that more complex biological processes can be recreated. This would open up a whole host of applications such as drug delivery, gene therapy or in vivo drug synthesis.

Dr Oscar Ces and his team have developed a methodology which allows them to produce artificial cells with multiple compartments separated by lipid bilayers. They have also been able to synthesise proteins within each compartment and introduce enzymatic pathways into them. This means that in future higher order artificial cells could be produced that contain compartment to compartment communication. It also paves the way for the development of cell-like drug delivery vehicles and other useful in vivo therapeutic approaches.