The CHELL : A Bottom-Up approach to in vitro and in silico Minimal Life-like Constructs

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Sch of Pharmacy

Abstract

This work is directed towards generating artificial objects that have properties mimicking those of biological cells. Specifically we set out to test if it is possible for an artificial cell to imitate a natural cell in terms of responding to biological signals. We do not aim to produce an artificial life-form but rather we seek to evaluate whether some processes (signals) that natural cells use can be imitated by the synthetic cells such that the natural cells are unable to tell the difference. The work will involve the modelling, design, preparation and evaluation of capsule-like structures using a combination of compuer science, chemistry, materials science, with a further focus on potential ethical and social aspects of artificial cellular systems. The cell-imitating capsules will contain chemistries we can use as models of signalling ands metabolism, and will be designed such that we can use the capsules and signals to/from them in 'conversations' and 'imitation games' with real cells.The work is intended as fundamental curiosity-driven investigation and addresses the scientific, societal and ethical aspects of minimal-life constructs, However, there are many potential spin-outs of this work if we show that it is indeed possible to 'talk' to natural cells via artificial capsules. Examples might include 'smart' antibiotics, drug carriers for locally-directed therapies and intelligent materials for tissue repair.

Publications

10 25 50

publication icon
Alexander C (2011) Materials chemistry in the emerging field of synthetic biology in Journal of Materials Chemistry

publication icon
Louzao I (2015) Cationic polymer mediated bacterial clustering: Cell-adhesive properties of homo- and copolymers. in European journal of pharmaceutics and biopharmaceutics : official journal of Arbeitsgemeinschaft fur Pharmazeutische Verfahrenstechnik e.V

publication icon
Magnusson J (2011) Synthetic polymers for biopharmaceutical delivery in Polym. Chem.

publication icon
Pasparakis G (2010) Controlled polymer synthesis--from biomimicry towards synthetic biology. in Chemical Society reviews

publication icon
Xue X (2011) Synthetic polymers for simultaneous bacterial sequestration and quorum sense interference. in Angewandte Chemie (International ed. in English)

 
Title Online video and artwork 
Description Video and artwork produced in collaboration with designer James King http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/slippery_cellularities/ 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2011 
Impact IMPACT Exhibition with EPSRC Cheltenham Science Festival New approaches to work with designers from the Royal College of Art - ongoing 
URL https://vimeo.com/10274649
 
Description Outputs currently academic: award of 2 CASE grants, training of 2 PhD students, and contributed to 2 Nature family papers. BBSRC Industrial CASE with GSK Consumer Healthcare. BB/H53052X/1 "Bacterial Autonemesis" 2009-2013. Total value ~ £ 73,110 EPSRC DTG CASE ""Development of polymeric coatings for the systemic delivery of Adenovirus" - with PsiOxus Therapeutics £23,041 industry contribution
First Year Of Impact 2009
Sector Chemicals,Healthcare,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology
Impact Types Cultural,Economic

 
Description 'The 'Chell' inspired 'Turing Test' for artificial life cited in Synthetic Biology Research Centre bids
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Appointment to EPSRC Big Ideas Advisory Group
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
URL https://epsrc.ukri.org/newsevents/news/theworldneedsbigideas/
 
Description Programme Grant
Amount £5,365,958 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/N006615/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2015 
End 11/2020
 
Description University of Glasgow 
Organisation University of Glasgow
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Co-hosting of researchers in Chell collaboration
Collaborator Contribution Co-hosting of researchers in Chell collaboration
Impact Papers in leading journals Multidisciplinary collaboration linking chemistry, pharmacy and physics
Start Year 2006
 
Description University of Oxford 
Organisation University of Oxford
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Hosting of researchers from Oxford. Knowledge transfer
Collaborator Contribution Hosting of Nottingham PDRAs and PhDs.
Impact Papers (see outputs) Collaboration involved chemistry, pharmacy and microbiology
Start Year 2006
 
Description EPSRC IMPACT! Exhibition 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Exhibition or artwork designed by James King based on projects in the "Chell" project and my Leadership Fellowship grant.

Artwork and film to explore concepts in what products from synthetic biology might look like

Requests for articles and participation in further Synthetic Biology dialogues
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description Publication and feature in EPSRC Pioneer Magazine 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Feature article in Pioneer 9 regarding Leadership Fellowship and also leading the EPSRC/AstraZeneca/Nottingham Centre for Doctoral Training in Targeted Therapeutics.





http://www.epsrc.ac.uk/newsevents/pubs/mags/pioneer/Pages/pioneerdownloads.aspx
.

Queries from journalists and subsequent press releases
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.epsrc.ac.uk/newsevents/pubs/mags/pioneer/Pages/pioneerdownloads.aspx
 
Description Web videos 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Web-based videos produced and devised by journalist Brady Haran featuring science at Nottingham.

Series of videos describing science and scientists at Nottingham

Journalists asked for interviews
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
URL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThgJHeDKsxA
 
Description YouTube videos 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Podcast developed by journalist Brady Haran to disseminate information regarding science at Nottingham.

Ongoing videos as part of Brady Haran's 'Test-Tube' science video series

I received numerous requests to participate in new research programs, and enquiries from potential PhD students.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008,2010,2012
URL http://www.tes.co.uk/teaching-resource/Cameron-Alexander-Interview-6394346