- Physicist Luca Giomi has been awarded an NWO Vidi grant of 800,000 euro to theoretically investigate artificial cell-like structures. This year, a total of 572 researchers applied for a Vidi. Only 87 of them have been granted funds, including twelve from Leiden University.
The goal of the Giomi’s research is to theoretically investigate an artificial cell-like structure to understand how mechanical functionality emerges in living matter. Living cells are capable of astonishing mechanical functionalities. They can deform spontaneously or, in response to environmental stimuli, move in a fluid or on a substrate and generate enough force to split themselves in two, while remaining alive. These unique properties are possible because the building blocks that form the mechanical apparatus of the cell are active: they are able to transform stored or ambient energy into mechanical work.
But how does functionality emerge from mechanical activity? In order to address this question, Giomi will focus on an artificial cell-like structure consisting of a lipid vesicle enclosing an active liquid crystal that performs the functions of the cytoskeleton. Using this active prototype cell as a model system, he will shed light on the complex mechanical properties that characterize the “fabric of life”.
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Publ. 13-05-2016 13:46