Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign developed an innovative strategy of mixing lipids and nanoparticles to produce new drug and agricultural materials and delivery vehicles. Steve Granick, a professor of materials science and engineering, chemistry and physics said that it was a very novel technique. The hollow, deformable and biofunctional capsules could be used in drug delivery, colloidal-based biosensors and enzyme-catalyzed reactions.
Lipids are the building blocks of cell membranes. The construction of useful artificial lipid vesicles was previously not possible, because the vesicles were too delicate. Granick and graduate student Liangfang Zhang found a way to stabilize lipids and stop their destruction. Their findings were published in the journal Nano Letters. Initially a dilute solution of lipid capsules of a particular size was prepared and encapsulated with chemicals or adsorbing molecules on their surfaces. Then charged nanoparticles were added to the solution. The nanoparticles adhere to the capsules and prevent further growth, freezing them at the desired size. The lipid concentration can then be increased without limits.
Granick, who also is a researcher at the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory and at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, said that the capsules are manipulative and follow orders. To prove it Granick and Zhang encapsulated fluorescent dyes within lipid capsules but to their astonishment there was no leakage and the lipids proved stable against further fusion.
This biologically friendly capsule delivery vehicle is a great advancement in the field of science. Granick said that chemical reactions can be performed within individual isolated capsules. These biocompatible containers could also help in the transportation of cargo such as enzymes, DNA, proteins and drug molecules throughout living organisms. They could also serve as surrogate factories where enzyme-catalyzed reactions are performed. By attaching biomolecules to the capsule's surface, novel colloidal-size sensors could be produced. An additional use for stabilized lipid capsules is the study of drug behavior. In conclusion this has a wide number of applications and is a very useful tool.