From Never Born Proteins to Minimal Living Cells: Two Projects in Synthetic Biology
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The Never Born Proteins (NBPs) and the Minimal Cell projects are two currently developed research lines belonging to the field of synthetic biology. The first deals with the investigation of structural and functional properties of de novo proteins with random sequences, selected and isolated using phage display methods. The minimal cell is the simplest cellular construct which displays living properties, such as self-maintenance, self-reproduction and evolvability. The semi-synthetic approach to minimal cells involves the use of extant genes and proteins in order to build a supramolecular construct based on lipid vesicles. Results and outlooks on these two research lines are shortly discussed, mainly focusing on their relevance to the origin of life studies.