Thursday, March 8, 2012
Spalding Laboratory 106 (Hartley Memorial Seminar Room)
Chemical Engineering Seminar
Retrofitting membranes: wrapping up where nature left off
T. Kyle Vanderlick, Professor, Dean of School of Engineering and Applied Science, Yale University
Of the many wonders of biological systems, one must certainly include cell membranes - one of the most elegant and versatile packaging materials known to mankind. With amazing material properties, these strong, deformable, semi-permeable, self-healing thin films are merely the thickness of two phospholipid molecules. While many, if not most, other biological wonders are far too complicated to imitate, basic membrane structures can be readily created in the laboratory - quite a testament to the power of molecular self-assembly. In fact, the relative ease of creating closed membrane structures, such as vesicles made from phospholipids and synthetic polymersomes made from diblock copolymers, offers amazing building materials for more advanced structures and superstructures. Such is the motivation for the work in our laboratory, which designs advanced membrane structures for new applications, and also as platforms for fundamental biological investigations. In this talk I will describe our progress in creating and using novel structures made of vesicles, polymersomes, hybrids of the two, and other building blocks such as lipid discs. Many of our structures are created by exploiting molecular interactions of biological molecules beyond nature's design: for example, we use DNA as molecular glue for assembly purposes and we take advantage of phase separation of lipid mixtures to engineer anisotropic systems. Finally, we show how some of these man-made membrane structures can be transported by docking them to naturally motive cells.