Using a patterned grating structure to create lipid bilayer platforms insensitive to air bubbles†
Supported lipid bilayers (SLBs) have been used for various biosensing applications. The bilayer structure enables embedded lipid membrane species to maintain their native orientation, and the two-dimensional fluidity is crucial for numerous biomolecular interactions to occur. The platform integrated with a microfluidic device for reagent transport and exchange has great potential to be applied with surface analytical tools. However, SLBs can easily be destroyed by air bubbles during assay reagent transport and exchange. Here, we created a patterned obstacle grating structured surface in a microfluidic channel to protect SLBs from being destroyed by air bubbles. Unlike all of the previous approaches using chemical modification or adding protection layers to strengthen lipid bilayers, the uniqueness of this approach is that it uses the patterned obstacles to physically trap water above the bilayers to prevent the air–water interface from directly coming into contact with and peeling the bilayers. We showed that our platform with certain grating geometry criteria can provide promising protection to SLBs from air bubbles. The required obstacle distance was found to decrease when we increased the air-bubble movement speed. In addition, the interaction assay results from streptavidin and biotinylated lipids in the confined SLBs suggested that receptors at the SLBs retained the interaction ability after air-bubble treatment. The results showed that the developed SLB platform can preserve both high membrane fluidity and high accessibility to the outside environment, which have never been simultaneously achieved before. Incorporating the built platforms with some surface analytical tools could open the bottleneck of building highly robust in vitro cell-membrane-related bioassays.