In a new study, National Science Foundation-funded researchers combined a couple of sugars, a dash of enzymes, a pinch of salt, and a splash of polyethylene glycol and carefully arranged them in watery baths to create a synthetic organelle, which they used to explore some odd cellular biochemistry. The researchers made the chemical medley in the lab to closely mimic membraneless organelles, mini-organs in cells that are not contained in a membrane but exist as pools of watery solutions. And their model demonstrated how, with just a few ingredients, the organelles could carry out fine-tuned biological processes. Organelles that are pools of watery solutions and not objects with membranes are a fairly recent discovery. A prime example is the nucleolus. It resides inside of the cell's nucleus, which is an organelle that does have a membrane. In the past, researchers thought the nucleolus disappeared during cell division and reappeared later. In the meantime, researchers have realized that the nucleolus has no membrane and that during cell division it gets diffused the way water bubbles do in vinaigrette dressing that has been shaken up.
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