Artificial bilayer tissue-like materials

Manish Kumar | Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering

Adrianne Rosales | Chemical Engineering

Keith Keitz | Chemical Engineering

Charlie Werth | Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Yu-Ming Tu | Chemical Engineering

Aida Fica | Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Bailey Tibbett | Chemical Engineering

Soft responsive materials that mimic and extend the function of biological tissues could revolutionize biomanufacturing, computing, robotics, sensing, and separations. In this project, we aim to mimic the reconfigurability and adaptability of biological tissues using a modular system of dynamic, self-assembling components. This will enable the design, synthesis, and assembly of a new class of multifunctional soft materials. These materials will form the platform for research into a number of emerging and established scientific concepts including neuromorphic computing, catalysis in flow chemistry, biomimetic separations, interspecies electron transfer, cell-free synthetic biology, and soft robotics. Specifically, we propose to develop a droplet interface bilayer (DIB) platform that integrates membrane forming molecules (amphiphilic block copolymers, lipids, and peptoids), membrane transporters (membrane proteins and artificial supramolecular channels), whole cells (engineered and native), and nanomaterials (quantum dots, 2d materials, responsive polymers) to form individually-addressable molecularly-gated compartments within a polymerizable matrix.  DIB leverages the assembly of nanoscale biomimetic membranes (bilayers) between lipid or amphiphilic block copolymer coated aqueous droplets immersed in a hydrophobic medium, such as a polymerizable oil or organogel. The DIB offers several specific advantages for creating compartmentalized biomimetic materials: First, the bilayer that forms between droplets enables reconstitution of stimuli-responsive biomolecules, including membrane proteins, membrane active peptides and artificial channels, which can be used to control transport between compartments. Second, the DIB method uniquely enables the patterned assembly of 2- and 3-dimensional droplet networks that mimic the hierarchical organization and membrane-separation of cells in living tissues and which can exhibit collective functionality. The research proposed during the seed project will focus on a specific application and demonstration of the DIB platform through development of a novel selective separation/reactive “living” membrane that can remove a commonly found aqueous pollutant - nitrate. Nitrate is responsible for eutrophication of water bodies such as lakes and the Gulf of Mexico leading to large algal blooms and eutrophication. We propose to implement three strategies to demonstrate the versatility of the DIB platform for nitrate capture and degradation using enzymes and microbes that can potentially be used as deployable materials for degrading nitrate.