Collaborative research

Case study: Yash and Jacqueline

Collaborations are essential to accelerate research. That is why, at the European Synthetic Cell Initiative, we have made it a priority to foster collaboration between scientists working on bottom-up synthetic cell research.


Last May, we hosted SynCell2022, a scientific conference to present and discuss the latest research results in bottom-up synthetic biology. During the conference, Yash Jawale, from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, and Jacqueline De Lora, from the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Germany, exchanged ideas and eventually decided to conduct an experiment together. They tell us what this collaboration is about and how it could advance their respective research.

Replicating the mechanisms involved in cell division

Yash works on spindles in Marileen Dogterom’s lab. A spindle is a microscopic protein structure in a cell that places DNA in the middle and then separates the DNA strands before the cell divides to form two equal-sized daughter cells.

“My project aims to assemble a minimal spindle; composed of only the minimal required elements; inside a cell mimic, in my case a giant unilamellar vesicle, also known as a GUV,” Yash said.

His research is part of the BaSyC research program, which aims to understand how cells work by building cell-like systems from scratch and replicating some of the abilities of living cells, such as the ability to divide.

A technical challenge that needs the expertise of another lab

When assembling the spindle into different GUVs, Yash encountered some difficulties. His spindles are composed of filaments made of a protein called tubulin. Yash tried different techniques to insert the tubulin proteins into GUVs, but none of them were suitable for tubulin. He then looked into what other labs were doing and contacted Jacqueline De Lora from Joachim Spatz’s lab.

Over the past two years, Jacqueline has developed a new microfluidic device that uses acoustic vibrations to inject biological material into droplet-stabilized GUVs.

“In our lab, we form GUVs from droplets. The last state before the transition to GUVs is called droplet-stabilized GUVs and we can inject proteins into them. My device generates vibrations at the junction where the droplet-stabilized GUVs meet the biological material, so that the droplet interface is destabilized and the material can enter without damage,” Jacqueline explained.

SynCell2022 marks the beginning of a new collaboration

High speed camera video of droplet acoustoinjection with 3 wt/% surfactant concentrations in the kHz frequency domain at 3 Vp-p applied voltage. Frey C, De Lora JA, Jahnke T, Wang Y, Weber S, Platzman I, et al. Controlled microfluidic droplet acoustoinjection on one chip. ChemRxiv. DOI: 10.26434/chemrxiv-2022-j66dm

Yash and Jacqueline had the opportunity to meet face-to-face last May thanks to the SynCell2022 conference.

“It wasn’t until we sat down and exchanged ideas in person that we decided to work together. My device was almost ready, it could help Yash with his project and I thought it would be an interesting first application for my device.”

Next steps

Yash hopes to visit Spatz’s lab soon, which will allow him to learn more about the acoustoinjection technique that Jacqueline used to build her device and to perform the experiment with her.

In addition, Jacqueline has made sure that her acoustofluidic device is reproducible by all and will therefore benefit the synthetic cell community.

Thank you Yash and Jacqueline for your testimonials and we wish you much success in your joint project!