• artificial cells;
  • liposomes;
  • minimal cells;
  • origin of life;
  • protocells;
  • synthetic cells


Lipid vesicles are often used as compartment structures for preparing cell-like systems and models of protocells, the hypothetical precursor structures of the first cells at the origin of life. Although the various artificially made vesicle systems are already remarkably complex, they are still very different from and much simpler than any known living cell. Nevertheless, the preparation and study of the structure and the dynamics of functionalized vesicle systems may contribute to a better understanding of biological cells, in particular of the essential features of a living cell that are not found in the non-living form of matter. The study of protocell models may possibly lead to a better understanding of the origin of the first cells. To avoid misunderstanding in this field of research, it would be useful if generally accepted definitions of terms like “artificial cells,” “synthetic cells,” “minimal cells,” “protocells,” and “primitive cells” exist.

Editor's suggested further reading in BioEssays

Synthetic cells and organelles: compartmentalization strategiesAbstract