Pasquale StanoView all speakers
Pasquale Stano completed his graduation in organic chemistry specialized in reaction mechanisms at the University of Pisa, Italy. He moved in Switzerland to join the Luisi group at the Materials Department of ETH Zurich, where he started to work with carnitine-based lipid vesicles for a drug delivery project, with a fellowship granted by the Sigma-Tau pharmaceutical company. In 2003 he moved to Rome, at the Biology Department of Roma3 University, working on the self-reproduction of lipid vesicles intended as primitive cell models. From 2006 to 2008 he was a Junior Fellow of the ‘Enrico Fermi’ research center, dealing with the ‘minimal life’ project.
Currently he is involved, as research fellow at Roma3 University, in the construction of ‘semi-synthetic minimal cells’ (see EU-FP6 Synthcells project). Author of about 50 publications, he is interested in synthetic biology, origin of life, artificial life and artificial intelligence, bio-chem-ICTs, systems chemistry.
In recent years, we have proposed the concept of semi-synthetic minimal cells (SSMCs) (1,2). These are cell-like compartments, based on lipid vesicles (liposomes), filled with the minimal number of biochemical species in order to display living-like properties, like self-maintenance and self-reproduction. Born within the origin-of-life research, SSMCs are now an important pillar of synthetic biology. The SSMCs technology aims at constructing simple cell-like systems from molecular components, by a bottom-up approach, which complements the more traditional top-down one, typical of synthetic biology. The state-of-the-art of SSMCs research focuses on the production of proteins within such synthetic systems, but the ability of assembling compartmentalized systems is rapidly growing, and paves the way to interesting biotechnological applications. In this contribution, we will shortly introduce the concept of SSMCs, and summarize the most relevant results in the field, emphasizing both the scientific and the technological aspects. In addition, we will discuss in detail our recent investigation (3,4) on the remarkable and spontaneous self-organization of solutes and lipids to form a functional synthetic cell. This intriguing observation might be at the basis of the emergence of life on Earth and moreover can be further exploited to advance the technology of SSMCs. (1) Luisi et al. (2006). Approaches to semi-synthetic minimal cells: A review. Naturwissenschaften 93, 1-13. (2) Stano et al. (2011). Compartmentalized reactions as a case of soft-matter biotechnology: Synthesis of proteins and nucleic acids inside lipid vesicles. J. Mat. Chem., 21, 18887-18902 (3) Luisi et al. (2010). Spontaneous protein crowding in liposomes: A new vista for the origin of cellular metabolism. ChemBioChem, 11, 1989-1992. (4) Souza et al. (2011). Spontaneous crowding of ribosomes and proteins inside vesicles: A possible mechanism for the origin of cell metabolism. ChemBioChem, 12, 2325-2330.