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Bioinspired Artificial Phagocytosis

16 August 2017

Research led by Professor Steve Mann's group, featured on the front cover of Nature Materials.

The spontaneous assembly of micro-compartmentalized colloidal objects capable of controlled interactions offers a step towards rudimentary forms of collective behaviour in communities of artificial cell-like entities (synthetic protocells).

Here we report a primitive form of artificial phagocytosis in a binary community of synthetic protocells in which multiple silica colloidosomes are selectively ingested by self-propelled magnetic Pickering emulsion (MPE) droplets comprising particle-free fatty acid-stabilized apertures. Engulfment of the colloidosomes enables selective delivery and release of water-soluble payloads, and can be coupled to enzyme activity within the MPE droplets.

Our results highlight opportunities for the development of new materials based on consortia of colloidal objects, and provide a novel microscale engineering approach to inducing higher-order behaviour in mixed populations of synthetic protocells.

The paper was written by Dr Laura Rodríguez-Arco, Dr Mei Li and Professor Stephen Mann

Further information

Paper: Phagocytosis-inspired behaviour in synthetic protocell communities of compartmentalized colloidal objects