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Screening lipid libraries with microfluidics

The plasma membrane is a key component of living organisms and is essential to all life. It separates the inside of the cell from the outside, compartmentalizes reactions, and selectively allows transport across it. While a lot of research has gone into how different proteins and surface molecules control the functions of the plasma membrane, less is known about how lipid composition gives rise to specific properties. For instance, transmembrane proteins, which are also a large class of drug targets, may have different requirements for the lipid environment or may have their function modified depending on local lipid composition. Recently, researchers from the David Weitz Lab at Harvard, have developed a microfluidic chip which they used to screen the largest lipid library to date, in order to identify which lipid compositions have specificity for certain protein transmembrane domains. This allows researchers to investigate the effect of local lipid concentration on transmembrane proteins.

The plasma membrane is often described as a ‘simple barrier’. But if that’s the case, then “why does nature go through the trouble of making so many different types of lipids?” explained Roy Ziblat, the lead author on the paper. Ziblat believes that the lipid membrane role is far bigger than a mere barrier and it serves as a substrate for accelerating bio-reactions. The role of the lipids composing the membrane is to control which biomolecules participate in these reactions, by their selectivity to membrane proteins. Having limited success with existing techniques, Ziblat turned to microfluidics to try to answer this question.

The microfluidic chip comprises an array of 108 wells in PDMS where lipid films can be deposited and dried before sealing the chip with another layer of PDMS. Liposomes are generated within the wells by swelling in aqueous buffer. These liposomes are then tested to see whether or not transmembrane domain peptides will insert into them. However, because the transmembrane domain peptides are insoluble, they can’t simply be added into the chip. To get around this, Ziblat et al. turned to cell-free protein synthesis. By loading the chip with DNA for the transmembrane domain peptide and PURExpress (a commercial cocktail of ribosomes, enzymes, and nucleotides for transcription and translation), the peptides can be synthesized in close proximity to the liposomes, thus minimizing precipitation and increasing the chance of insertion. The paper by Ziblat et al., which was featured on the cover of the 7th December issue of Lab on a Chip, also includes a helpful video description of these methods. Ziblat said he first made the video to better communicate his methods with his supervisor and colleagues, but it really helps the reader understand a very technical methodology.

Going forward, Ziblat hopes to use the device to study other membrane interactions, such as virus-cell binding. There’s also hope that this new device and method can be used to identify what the authors call “druggable lipids”—peptides that interact with specific lipids and thus better direct drugs toward specific cells or even organelles.


To download the full article, click the link below:

Determining the lipid specificity of insoluble protein transmembrane domains

R. Ziblat, J. C. Weaver, L. R. Arriaga, S. Chong and D. A. Weitz

Lab Chip, 2018, 18, 3561

DOI: 10.1039/c8lc00311d


About the webwriter

Darius Rackus (right) is a postdoctoral researcher in the Dittrich Bionalytics Group at ETH Zürich. His research interests are in developing integrated microfluidic tools for healthcare and bioanalysis

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Lab on a Chip presents prestigious prizes at MicroTAS 2018

The µTAS 2018 Conference was held during 11th-15th November in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.  Simon Neil, Executive Editor of Lab on a Chip, attended the conference and announced the prestigious Lab on a Chip awards which include the Pioneers of Miniaturization Lectureship (in partnership with Dolomite Microfluidics), the Widmer Young Researcher Poster Prize and the Art in Science competition (in partnership with NIST). All three competitions received many fantastic submissions and we are delighted to present the winners, below:

“Pioneers of Miniaturization” Lectureship

Professor Sunghoon Kwon (Seoul National University) won the 13th “Pioneers of Miniaturization” Lectureship, sponsored by Dolomite and Lab on a Chip. The “Pioneers of Miniaturization” Lectureship rewards early to mid-career scientists who have made extraordinary or outstanding contributions to the understanding or development of miniaturised systems. Professor Sunghoon Kwon received a certificate, a monetary award and delivered a short lecture titled “Miniaturization for Personalised Medicine” at the conference.

 

Left to right: Simon Neil (Lab on a Chip), Sunghoon Kwon (winner) and Mark Gilligan (Dolomite)

 

Art in Science Competition

Lab on a Chip Executive Editor Simon Neil and Greg Cooksey from the National Institute of Standards Technology (NIST) presented the Art in Science award and a cake featuring the winning image at the Royal Society of Chemistry booth to Nam-Trung Nguyen for his entry “The Green Planet”. This award aims to highlight the aesthetic value in scientific illustrations while still conveying scientific merit.

 

Left to right: Simon Neil (Lab on a Chip), Greg Cooksey (NIST) and winner, Nam-Trung Nguyen with the personalised cake, and the winning image ‘The Green Planet’: an image of a floating liquid marble, decorated with green fluorescent beads. The image was taken with a colour USB camera. The liquid marble is made of a water droplet containing green fluorescent beads and coated with Teflon powder.

 

Widmer Young Researcher Poster Prize

The Widmer Young Researcher Poster Prize was awarded to Richard Cheng from the University of Toronto for his poster on “In Situ Delivery And Patterning Of Skin Cell Containing Biomaterial Sheet Using A Microfluidic Bioprinter”.

 

Simon Neil (left) with Richard Cheng (winner)

 

 

Congratulations to all the winners at the conference, we look forward to seeing you at µTAS 2019 in Basel, Switzerland! 

 

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Art in Science Competition Winner Announced at MicroTAS 2018

Lab on a Chip and the National Institute of Standards Technology (NIST) presented the Art in Science award at the µTAS 2018 Conference on 14 November 2018 at the Royal Society of Chemistry booth. The award highlights the aesthetic value in scientific illustrations while still conveying scientific merit. The competition received many fantastic submissions this year which were judged by Simon Neil, Lab on a Chip Executive Editor, Greg Cooksey, NIST representative and Manabu TokeshiLab on a Chip Associate Editor .

Simon Neil and Greg Cooksey announced the winner of the competition was Nam-Trung Nguyen with his entry “The Green Planet” and presented Dr Nguyen with his award and certificate and a cake featuring the winning image.

The Green Planet 

Nam-Trung Nguyen, Griffith University, Australia

The Green Planet

 

 

 

The runners up are:

 

Magnetic Artificial Cilia with a Brush-shaped Cap 

Shuaizhong Zhang, Eindhoven University of Technology, Netherlands

magnetic artificial cilia with a brush-shaped cap

 

 

 

Embracing Chaos

Samantha Byrnes, Intellectual Ventures Laboratory, USA

 

 

A big thank you to all the contributors this year!

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SelectBio Conferences & Exhibitions, 2019

SelectBio conference logoWe are excited to announce that registration is now open for the SelectBio Conferences that take place throughout 2019. The various events and exhibitions will bring together a number of keynote speakers to discuss the most up-to-date technologies and advances in different evolving fields. Check out the SelectBio website for a list of events and descriptions, including a full list of confirmed plenary speakers. Some of the events will be hosted in Coronado Island, California and the Europe-based conferences will take place in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Lab on a Chip, AnalystAnalytical Methods and Biomaterials Science are delighted to sponsor the following upcoming events and exhibitions in 2019:

SelectBio: Circulating Biomarkers and Liquid Biopsies, Coronado Island

SelectBio: Biosensors Summit, Coronado Island

SelectBio: 3D-Culture and Organoids, Coronado Island

SelectBio: Lab-on-a-Chip and Microfluidics Europe, Rotterdam

SelectBio: Organ-on-a-Chip and Tissue-on-a-Chip Europe, Rotterdam

SelectBio: Point-of-Care, Mobile Diagnostics and Biosensors Europe, Rotterdam

SelectBio: Biofabrication & Biomanufacturing Europe, Rotterdam

SelectBio: Point-of-Care Diagnostics, Wearables & Global Health 2019

SelectBio: Lab-on-a-Chip & Microfluidics World Congress 2019

SelectBio: Microfluidics for Circulating Biomarkers Summit 2019

SelectBio: Microfluidics & Flow Chemistry 2019

SelectBio: Organ-on-a-Chip World Congress 2019

Single Cell & Single Molecule Analysis Summit 2019

We recommend registering early to secure a place at these events. Remember to keep your eyes peeled for upcoming conferences, and stay connected with SelectBio. Register now!


Circulating Biomarkers 2019, SelectBio conferences

Biofabrication & Biomanufacturing Europe 2019, SelectBio conference

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