Researchers have developed a way to create uniformly sized cell membranes, small cellular packages that can be used like tiny terrariums to study the inner workings of the cell and even create new molecules.
Sandro Matosevic and Brian Paegel of the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Florida, have developed a chip-based method that creates uniformly sized vesicles in assembly-line fashion. Sized between 20 and 70 micrometers in diameter, the vesicles are large enough to be loaded with DNA and the biochemical machinery to act as synthetic cells. The synthetic packaging will help researchers study the proteins in cell membranes, which play important roles as gatekeepers of the cell. Many drugs, for example, act on these membrane proteins or otherwise use them to get inside cells in order to do their job.
Islands in the stream: Water droplets suspended in oil travel down a channel in a microfluidic chip. A stream of water flows alongside, forming an oil-water interface.
Credit: Brian Paegel lab, Scripps Institute