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Date:2/18/2014

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (http://www.ucr.edu) A University of California, Riverside assistant professor of engineering is among a group of researchers that have made important discoveries regarding the behavior of a synthetic molecular oscillator, which could serve as a timekeeping device to control artificial cells.

Elisa Franco, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at UC Riverside's Bourns College of Engineering, and the other researchers developed methods to screen thousands of copies of this oscillator using small droplets. They found, surprisingly, that the oscillators inside these small droplets behave in a very diverse way in terms of period, amplitude and phase.

"This diversity will play an important role in engineering complex behaviors in artificial cells, and we will take advantage of it," Franco said.

The paper, "Diversity in the dynamical behavior of a compartmentalized programmable biochemical oscillator," was published online this week in the journal Nature Chemistry. Co-authors were: Maximilian Weitz, Korbinian Kapsner and Friedrich C. Simmel, all of the Technische Universitt Mnchen in Germany and Jongmin Kim and Erik Winfree, both of the California Institute of Technology.

Electronic oscillators are circuits that produce a periodic electronic signal, and they are used to regulate a variety of devices from radio and television transmitters to cellphones and computers. Biological systems are also regulated by complex molecular oscillators, from the level of individual cells up to entire organisms.

For decades, scientists have been trying to figure out ways to make artificial, programmable oscillators with molecules. Artificial oscillators may help adjust timekeeping in cells and regulating artificial cells. They could also be used as components in molecular computers that could create a middle ground between computers and nature.

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Contact: Sean Nealon
sean.nealon@ucr.edu
951-827-1287
University of California - Riverside
Source:Eurekalert  

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