Ultra-high capacity microfluidic trapping of giant vesicles for high-throughput membrane studies
Biomimetic systems such as model lipid membranes are vital to many research fields including synthetic biology, drug discovery and membrane biophysics. One of the most commonly used are giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) due to their size similarity with biological cells and their ease of production. Typical methods for handling such delicate objects are low-throughput and do not allow solution exchange or long-term observations, all of which limits the experimental options. Herein, we present a new device designed to confine large assemblies of GUVs in microfluidic traps but is still able to perform precise and fast solution exchanges. An optimised design allows efficient filling with as many as 114 GUVs per trap and over 23 000 GUVs per device. This allows high-throughput dataset acquisitions which we demonstrate with two proof-of-concept experiments: (i) end-point measurements of vesicle interior pH and (ii) membrane transport kinetics. Moreover, we show that the design is able to selectively trap sub-populations of specific vesicle sizes and assemble them in different layers. The device can easily be applied to other high-throughput membrane studies and will pave the way for future applications using vesicle assemblies to model cellular tissues or even prototissues.
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