New Approaches to Lipid Bilayer Fabrication: Microfluidic Solvent Extraction and Hydrogel Encapsulation
Membrane channel proteins play crucial roles in governing the transport of material and energy across every cellular membrane. Accordingly, they are the subjects of interest for science and medicine as well as major targets of drug discovery efforts. Recent work has also shown their potential as highly rapid and sensitive single molecule sensors. However, techniques conventionally used to measure the electrical transport through these proteins can be problematic to form and are extremely fragile, limiting the range and scope of possible studies. We have developed two new technologies which alleviate these shortcomings: in situ encapsulation of lipid membranes in hydrogels and automated microfluidic formation. The hydrogel encapsulated membranes are mechanically robust and long-lived as a result of the intimate contact between the hydrogel and the membrane, enabling measurements of single channel currents for a week or longer. The automated microfluidic formation apparatus enables the creation and manipulation of lipid membranes and the incorporation and measurement of channel proteins in these membranes through an entirely computer controlled process. We are working to apply these technologies toward DNA sequencing, drug discovery, and single molecule biophysics.
P. VINCENZINI and R. BARBUCCI
N. Malmstadt et al., "New Approaches to Lipid Bilayer Fabrication: Microfluidic Solvent Extraction and Hydrogel Encapsulation", Advances in Science and Technology, Vol. 53, pp. 22-31, 2006