What distinguishes the current project is that it will make use of stable "cells" featuring a coating that forms spontaneously, similar to the walls of our own cells, and uses chemistry to accomplish the signal processing similar to that of our own neurons.[...]
The group's approach hinges on two critical ideas.
First, individual "cells" are surrounded by a wall made up of so-called lipids that spontaneously encapsulate the liquid innards of the cell.
Recent work has shown that when two such lipid layers encounter each other as the cells come into contact, a protein can form a passage between them, allowing chemical signalling molecules to pass.
Second, the cells' interiors will play host to what is known as a Belousov-Zhabotinsky or B-Z chemical reaction. Simply put, reactions of this type can be initiated by changing the concentration of the element bromine by a certain threshold amount.
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