Building Life-Like Systems: What properties should artificial systems possess to be considered life-like? In this Perspective, this question is explored by reviewing fundamental characteristics that experimental systems emulate to mimic living cells. In doing so, a general overview of concepts and features involved in building artificial life-like systems is provided.
The quest to understand life and recreate it in vitro has been undertaken through many different routes. These different approaches for experimental investigation of life aim to piece together the puzzle either by tracing life's origin or by synthesizing life-like systems from non-living components. Unlike efforts to define life, these experimental inquiries aim to recapture specific features of living cells, such as reproduction, self-organization or metabolic functions that operate far from thermodynamic equilibrium. As such, these efforts have generated significant insights that shed light on crucial aspects of biological functions. For observers outside these specific research fields, it sometimes remains puzzling what properties an artificial system would need to have in order to be recognized as most similar to life. In this Perspective, we discuss properties whose realization would, in our view, allow the best possible experimental emulation of a minimal form of biological life.Zum Volltext