Mass transport in biomimetic lipid membrane networks created by light

Lead Research Organisation: Loughborough University
Department Name: Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering


Biomimetic structures, based on multiple compartments delimited and interconnected by lipid membranes, have shown a great potential as minimal cells in synthetic biology, simplified model systems for biophysical and biochemical studies and smart containers for drug delivery and microreactor technologies. There is hence a great interest in developing effective strategies for the construction of such soft-matter architectures that can be exploited for a wide range of applications, especially in healthcare and pharmaceutical industries.

More specifically, synthetic soft nanotubes networks, comprising cell-sized liquid compartments connected by nanotubular structures, have been extensively used as a model system for the investigation of physical and bio-chemical processes. Such structures closely resemble the cell-bridging nanoconduits, also known as tunneling nanotubes, which distant cells can create to establish a communication route between each other. Tunneling nanotubes can facilitate the transfer of biological materials between cells, but also play an important role in pathological processes by contributing to the spread of infectious diseases, the regulation of tumour cell microenvironment and the resistance to therapies.

This project aims to develop new methods for the manufacturing and characterisation of 2D and 3D lipid membrane networks of tunable morphology, made of cell-like micro-compartments connected by nanotubular structures, and to discover new physico-chemical mechanisms for the enhanced mass-transport within these soft-matter networks. Advanced optical microscopy techniques, including optical tweezers, atomic force microscopy and fluorescence-lifetime imaging, will be adopted to create and control the lipid networks and to characterise the mass transport processes. A theoretical framework will also be developed to model and predict the dynamics of flows within the lipid networks.

The outcomes of this research may open up new pathways for fundamental research in the physics and chemistry of living cells and soft matter systems, and enable the development of innovative health life sciences technologies based on artificial cell-nanotube networks for the target delivery of drug and genetic material at a single-cell level.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/T518098/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2025
2466362 Studentship EP/T518098/1 01/10/2020 31/03/2024 Adnan Chakra