All living cells have a distinct cell boundary (known as the cell membrane), isolating them from the surroundings. Phospholipid bilayers form the basis for biological cell membranes across almost all domains of life. These lipid molecules spontaneously assemble to form water-filled spherical vesicles, commonly known as liposomes. As a result, liposomes are the most-studied scaffolds for synthetic cells. But do we need to restrict ourselves only to naturally occurring biomolecules?
Indeed, one can use other amphiphilic molecules to make synthetic vesicles. Using chemically synthesized polymers, one can produce polymersomes and more recently, using Janus dendrimers, one can form dendrimersomes. A major advantage of these artificial vesicles is the huge chemical versatility of building blocks, which is highly beneficial to fine-tune their properties. Along with alternative scaffolds for synthetic cells, they provide novel opportunities for drug delivery systems.
The idea behind this project is to use Octanol-assisted Liposome Assembly (OLA)1, a microfluidic technology that our lab has developed, to produce synthetic vesicles in a highly controlled manner. Using an on-chip technique has a tremendous advantage of having an optimum process control. You will be involved in designing and fabricating microfluidic chips and will use different kinds of polymers and dendrimers to form vesicles in a high-throughput manner. Furthermore, you will test the effect of vesicle composition on key properties such as stability, permeability, rigidity, and biocompatibility.
If you excited with the idea of synthesizing designer vesicles using microfluidics, drop us an email (email@example.com) or pass by our lab/office (Helix, 7056).
1. Deshpande, S. & Dekker, C. On-chip microfluidic production of cell-sized liposomes. Nat. Protoc. 13, 856–874 (2018).
2. Sherman, S. E., Xiao, Q. & Percec, V. Mimicking complex biological membranes and their programmable glycan ligands with dendrimersomes and glycodendrimersomes. Chem. Rev. 117, 6538–6631 (2017).
3. Kostina, N. Y. et al. Membrane-Mimetic Dendrimersomes Engulf Living Bacteria via Endocytosis. Nano Lett. 19, 5732–5738 (2019).