Marco Esposito

Organelle breeding for artificial cells

Marco Esposito - 2nd year PhD


Recent research indicates that healthy cells can donate their power-stations (organelles, called mitochondria) to sickly ones. This has led to the idea of 'mitochondrial transplants': using the bulk delivery of these organelles for therapeutic purposes. Bulk breeding/generation of mitochondria or chloroplasts could also be used for future artificial cells they might power. This would involve modifying cells or using artificial cells to breed large numbers of organelles. As each organelle has its own genome, each can evolve and mutate. This evolution can involve large-scale deletions of the mitochondrial genome which can disable mitochondria as power-stations and even turn them into power-sinks. Any bulk production of organelles must be acutely sensitive to their mutational profile. Tracking the evolving quality of thousands of power-stations inside millions of, possibly replicating, quasi-living systems will require the development of new theoretical tools (organelle phylodynamics) to infer the evolutionary structures these cells display that exploit modern sequencing technologies.