Scientists Create Artificial Cell Membranes
Understanding the myriad biochemical roles of membranes requires the ability to prepare synthetic versions of these complex multi-layered structures, which has been a long-standing challenge.
In a study published this week by Nature Chemistry, scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) report a highly programmable and controlled platform for preparing and experimentally probing synthetic cellular structures.
“Layer-by-layer membrane assembly allows us to create synthetic cells with membranes of arbitrary complexity at the molecular and supramolecular scale,” said TSRI Assistant Professor Brian Paegel, who authored the study with Research Associate Sandro Matosevic. “We can now control the molecular composition of the inner and outer layers of a bilayer membrane, and even assemble multi-layered membranes that resemble the envelope of the cell nucleus.”
Starting with a technique commonly used to deposit molecules on a solid surface, Langmuir-Blodgett deposition, the scientists repurposed the approach to work on liquid objects.
The scientists engineered a microfluidic device containing an array of microscopic cups, each trapping a single droplet of water bathed in oil and lipids, the molecules that make up cellular membranes. The trapped droplets are then ready to serve as a foundation for building up a series of lipid layers like coats of paint.
“The computer-controlled microfluidic circuits we have constructed will allow us to assemble synthetic cells not only from biologically derived lipids, but from any amphiphile and to measure important chemical and physical parameters, such as permeability and stability,” said Paegel.
The study, “Layer-by-layer Cell Membrane Assembly,” was supported by a National Institutes of Health Pathway to Independence Career Development Award (GM083155) and a National Science Foundation CAREER Award (1255250). For more information on the research, see http://www.nature.com/nchem/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/nchem.1765.html
Publication of press-releases or other out-sourced content does not signify endorsement or affiliation of any kind.