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Novel high-throughput micro-device to form asymmetric bio-membranes

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Posted November 27, 2014
This news or article is intended for readers with certain scientific or professional knowledge in the field.

The research group of Dr. Rikiya Watanabe and Prof. Hiroyuki Noji at the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Engineering have developed a novel micro-device in which more than 10,000 artificial lipid bilayers (artificial bio-membranes having the same structure as biological membranes but comprised of artificial lipids) with an asymmetric lipid composition are integrated.

Illustration of arrayed asymmetric lipid bilayers. © 2014 Rikiya Watanabe.

Illustration of arrayed asymmetric lipid bilayers. © 2014 Rikiya Watanabe.

The lipid composition is different between the inner and outer layers (“leaflets”) of the asymmetric bio-membrane, and this asymmetry is constantly maintained by membrane-embedded enzymes. Various physiologic functions such as signal transmission and apoptosis (programmed cell death) are regulated by the lipid compositional asymmetry, and therefore, a highly sensitive method for measuring disruption of lipid asymmetry had long been sought for.

Although liposomes have been widely used to measure lipid asymmetry disruption, it is technically challenging to control the lipid compositional asymmetry in a highly reproducible manner, and moreover, to detect the lipid asymmetry disruption with high sensitivity due to incompatibility with the indicator of lipid asymmetry.

To address the issue, the research group succeeded in creating asymmetric lipid bilayers in a high throughput manner, and developed a novel micro-device in which more than 10,000 artificial lipid bilayers with an asymmetric lipid composition are integrated. By using this micro-device, the group for the first time succeeded in carrying out a highly sensitive and long-time analysis of lipid asymmetry disruption at the single bio-membrane level.

It is highly expected that the developed technologies pave the way for novel medical and pharmacological applications, e.g. understanding diseases such as Alzheimer’s and cancer that are related to membrane asymmetry and drug screening platforms targeting the enzymes which maintain asymmetric lipid distribution.

Source: University of Tokyo

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