[Thesis] Development of microfluidic technologies for the construction of Multi-Compartment Vesicles
In recent years there has been an increasing interest in using lipid vesicles and related membrane structures as (i) artificial cells that mimic biological processes and (ii) bio-inspired micro-machines that serve functional purposes. To date, vesicles have largely been single-compartment structures with homogenous interiors, which has impeded the fulfilment of these goals. This thesis details the development of technologies to address this. We develop droplet-based methods to controllably generate multi-compartment vesicles (MCVs) for the first time. The potential of these novel structures as artificial cells capable of hosting a range of biological and bio-mimetic processes is explored. Most notably, we introduce spatial segregation of function, thus mimicking eukaryotic organelles, and incorporate an artificial enzymatic signalling cascade to transmit chemical signals between distinct vesicle regions. We also construct microfluidic devices to generate related structures known as multisomes. Microfluidic technologies enable the size of these constructs to be scaled-down (approaching characteristic cellular sizes), and the production throughput to be scaled-up (hundreds of multisomes produced a minute). We demonstrate their use as programmable modular microdroplet ‘factories’ for in situ chemical synthesis in physiological environments, with potential relevance for therapeutic applications. The above technologies provide a platform for further developments in bottom-up synthetic biology and in microreactor technologies, and will pave the way for the fulfilment of some of the ambitious goals of these fields.
Author: Elani, Yuval
Ces, Oscar Law, Robert Brooks, Nicholas
Imperial College London