The mechanome is the underresearched “ the set of proteins or molecular entities that sense or respond to forces” within the cell (Allen Liu). Our earlier stab at the subject here at UD garnered 354 comments, so there’s no shortage of interest. The mechanome (and mechanobiology in general) plays a key role in research into artificial cells.
Suzan Mazur is the author of The Paradigm Shifters: Overthrowing ‘the Hegemony of the Culture of Darwin’. Suzan Mazur talks to mechanical and biomedical engineer Allen Liu, one of the people best placed to offer some insights:
Suzan Mazur: The Liu Lab at the University of Michigan is particularly interested in the mechanobiology of the cell lipid membrane. Would you briefly describe your hypothesis about cell tension and membrane trafficking and the significance of this in building an artificial cell?
Allen Liu: The hypothesis is currently more relevant to living cells. At the moment it would be a bit difficult to extrapolate that for synthetic or artificial cells.
We are building mechanosensitive cells—artificial cells that will basically respond to mechanical forces. In this case, we are mimicking the basic process that cells can sense and respond to forces. This is work we’ve done on our own as well as in collaboration with Vincent Noireaux at the University of Minnesota.
Basically, we are incorporating channel proteins that are known to respond to membrane tension in the bilayer. If we incorporate this successfully, the artificial cell senses elevated membrane tension and will open. A pore, like a little door, enables molecules to go in and out. We’re writing this paper up now. More.
Suzan Mazur, “On the Frontline: Allen Liu—the Mechanome and Synthetic Cell Development” at Oscillations
We’ll keep watching the file.
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See also: Rethinking biology: What role does physical structure play in the development of cells?