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Protocell Assembly (PAs)

Protocell Assembly(PAs) is a Los Alamos National Laboratory LDRD-DR sponsored project, which seeks to assemble a minimal self-replicating molecular machine.

The question is not whether new simple life-forms can be assembled, but under which conditions it can occur. This project seeks to develop the underpinning science for the assembly of functional protocells, i.e., simple self-reproducing nanosystems that can perform useful tasks. Szostak et al., Nature 409 (2001) 387, and Pohorille & Deamer, Trends Biotech. 20 (2002) 123, recently outlined bottom-up routes to artificial cells, with methods that require the assembly and integration of highly complex biochemical systems. Rasmussen et al., Science 303 (2004) 963, recently outlined a simpler but more artificial design, which this project seeks to implement experimentally and in simulation. The results of this work will help develop the basis for a revolutionary and powerful living technology with multiple Laboratory mission applications in Science Based Prediction, Nonproliferation, Material Science, and Energy Security. In addition this work will provide new insights about the origins of life on Earth as well as possible life on Mars and elsewhere.

The technical team for the Protocell Assembly (PAs) project consists of scientists at Los Alamos together with scientists at other US and European institutions. In particular, the PAs project is closely coordinated with the European PACE effort (see below).

Programmable Artificial Cell Evolution (PACE)

The Los Alamos PAs project is closely coordinated with the European Commission sponsored PACE project, which consists of 13 partner institutions and 2 coorperating groups in Europe and the US. The PACE consortium seeks to create the foundation for a new generation of embedded information technology based on computer controlled microfluidics using programmable, self-assembling artificial cells.

International Protocell site

An international protocell knowledge repository environment can be found at

Job opportunities within the PAs project

Four to six postdoctoral and Ph.D students jobs are currently (November 2004) open for immediate start.