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Bulk Self-Assembly of Giant, Unilamellar Vesicles

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posted on 13.07.2020, 22:31 by James T. Kindt, Jack W. Szostak, Anna Wang
The desire to create cell-like models for fundamental science and applications has spurred extensive effort toward creating giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs). However, a route to selectively self-assemble GUVs in bulk has remained elusive. In bulk solution, membrane-forming molecules such as phospholipids, single-tailed surfactants, and block copolymers typically self-assemble into multilamellar, onion-like structures. So although self-assembly processes can form nanoscale unilamellar vesicles, scaffolding by droplets or surfaces is required to create GUVs. Here we show that it is possible to bulk self-assemble cell-sized GUVs with almost complete selectivity over other vesicle topologies. The seemingly paradoxical pair of features that enables this appears to be having very dynamic molecules at the nanoscale that create unusually rigid membranes. The resultant self-assembly pathway enables encapsulation of molecules and colloids and can also generate model primitive cells that can grow and divide.