Feedback in chemical systems can give rise to clocks, bistable switches or oscillations; all of these features are employed by living cells in order to generate robust decisions and outputs while existing in a deafening background of thermodynamic noise. Bottom-up synthetic biology aims to assemble and repurpose biological components to generate novel functional materials with properties that do not exist in nature. One aim of this field is to build bespoke artificial cell-like materials (protocells) from their constituent parts. Robust operation of these systems will require use of feedback-control, just as exists in nature.
This project will investigate confinement of feedback-responsive enzymatic reactions inside hollow membrane-bound compartments (vesicles) that mimic the architecture of a living cell. We will characterise the effect of this confinement on the encapsulated reactions and use this understanding to tune the response of the system as desired. The outputs of these reactions will be coupled to downstream material properties such as motility, communication and controlled release of drugs towards developing advanced biotechnologies with applications including drug delivery, environmental remediation and biosensors.
The project will provide training in the preparation and characterisation of soft and biological materials, including application of a range of spectroscopy and imaging techniques.