We have assembled a team of five leading UK University research groups, spanning Chemistry, Physics and Biophysics.
The groups have expertise covering laboratory-based and synchrotron time-resolved X-ray diffraction, neutron scattering, solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance, calorimetry, biomolecular force microscopy, Langmuir trough and microfluidics technologies, linear and non-linear spectroscopies, atomic force microscopy, spectroscopic and optical imaging, optical tweezers, microrheology, and theory and modelling.
Biomembranes lie at the heart of almost all biological function, and lipid membranes are increasingly used for a wide range of novel applications in biotechnology and nanomedicine. Self-assembled lipid structures can adopt an astonishing range of complex shapes and liquid-crystalline structures ordered in 1, 2 or 3 dimensions, over length scales stretching from 2 – 3 nanometres, to microns. Gaining an understanding at a molecular level of how interface structure, ordering, dynamics and micromechanics depend upon chemical structure and thermodynamic variables such as temperature, hydration, and pressure, is the key to learning how we can manipulate these soft interfaces to create active structures and new technologies.
Understanding fundamental aspects of membrane behaviour will underpin our demonstration application:
Artificial Organelles: Lipid based machines which mimic some of the remarkable functions and properties of biology will lead to new approaches for personalized healthcare.
Rapid drug-membrane binding screen: A compartmentalised, rapid drug screening device will allow parallel measurements of drug interactions with artificial plasma membrane mimics (PMMs).
Large Membrane Protein Crystallization Networks: Highly swollen lipid cubic phases with unit cell dimensions of tens or hundreds of nanometres will allowing us to incorporate large membrane proteins (>50kD), which are major drug targets for the pharmaceutical industry.
We have identified three key underpinning aspects of membranes that need to be understood and controlled: Asymmetry, Patterning and Curvature. There is a complicated coupling between all of these aspects, and this is where we will focus much of our attention.
We will use an integrated approach to develop lipid structures into active lipid tools including: self-encapsulated droplet interface bilayer networks, patterned asymmetric vesicle modules and sensitive phospholipid structures.