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Biomimetic Lipid Structures on Nano- and Microfluidic Platforms (nmu-LIPIDS)
Start date: Jul 1, 2008, End date: Jun 30, 2014 PROJECT  FINISHED 

The projects aim at the formation, manipulation, and analysis of three-dimensional lipid membrane structures on micro- and nano-structured platforms. The goal is to develop a novel methodology to design and create simple artificial cells and cell organelles, bio-hybrid cells, and bio-mimicking membrane networks, which could be an entirely novel tool for cell analysis, and promises fascinating prospects for cell manipulation, biotechnology, pharmacy and material sciences. The basis of the projects is formed by an unconventional concept that involves two current cutting-edge fabrication technologies, i.e. the so-called top-down and bottom-up approaches. The combination of the two approaches, with respect to both engineering methods and biological applications, opens the door to overcome current limitations in the creation of complex soft matter objects in micro- and nanometre dimension. The key method is a recently developed micro-extrusion process. It relies, on the one hand, on the ability of the lipid molecules to self-assemble (“bottom-up”). On the other hand, photolithography processes (“top-down”) are utilized to fabricate microchips, in which shape transformation, handling and analysis of the lipid structures are performed. The proposed engineering process will enable, for the first time, to precisely design composition, size and morphology of complex membrane structures. It will provide the requirements to design an artificial cell of reasonable complexity (“bottom-up”). One main emphasis is the creation of unique bio-hybrid systems, in which artificial membrane structures are connected to living cells, or in which natural membranes of cells are integrated within artificial systems (“top-down”). This highly interdisciplinary study will further include fundamental studies on membrane properties, engineering aspects to generate novel soft-matter devices, and the development of analytical methods and lipid sensors based on micro- and nanostructured chips.

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