Research Department "Cellular and Molecular Biophysics" (Petra Schwille)
Modern biophysics has provided a variety of cutting-edge technology that allows us to address cellular processes with unprecedented spatial and temporal precision, down to the level of single molecules. We can nowadays study the dynamics and interactions of biomolecules on scale of several tens of nanometers and nanoseconds, and have access to their interaction rates. However, the multitude of cellular processes, which are highly intertwined and display a large degree of redundancy, makes it ever harder to differentiate the essential from dispensable processes of living matter. To identify and understand the fundamental features of cells, we reconstitute cellular functions in minimal cell-free environments, in a bottom-up synthetic biology approach, and subject them to rigorous quantitative biophysical analysis. Our hope is that we will by this approach be able to define and reconstitute the minimal requirements of cellular life, resulting in so-called “protocells”.