The researchers made a synthetic “protocell” made of DNA and proteins packaged inside lipids, which are fatty compounds meant to mimic the cell membrane. The DNA held in these cells are programmed to replicate under the right conditions of temperature and pH. But cells undergo many cycles of replication and replenishment, the latter was proving to be a challenge for the scientists to achieve in these protocells.
As the solution, the newly split synthetic cells were designed to combine with other cell-like structures nearby and three successful cycles were completed in the laboratory set-up.
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