Researchers at Rockefeller University in the US have made the first tentative steps towards creating a form of artificial life. Their creations, small synthetic vesicles that can process (express) genes, resemble a crude kind of biological cell. The parts for their "vesicle bioreactors", as they call them, all come from diverse realms of life. The soft cell walls are made of fat molecules taken from egg white. The cell contents are an extract of the common gut bug E. coli, stripped of all its genetic material. This essence of life contains ready-made much of the biological machinery needed to make proteins; the researchers also added an enzyme from a virus to allow the vesicle to translate DNA code. When they added genes, the cell fluid started to make proteins, just like a normal cell would. A gene for green fluorescent protein taken from a species of jellyfish was the first they tried. The glow from the protein showed that the genes were being transcribed. With a second gene, from the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus, the researchers got their cells to make small pores in their walls. These let nutrients in from the surrounding "soup", so that the cells could function, in some instances, for several days. Albert Libchaber, who heads the project, stresses that these bioreactors are not alive - they're performing simple chemical reactions that can also happen in cell-free biological fluids.