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Biosensors will benefit from new method to produce membranes

European collaboration has taken a significant step in the production of biological membranes.

All cells in our body are surrounded by membranes, usually a phospholipid bilayer. It is thus important to study biological membranes as they can be used for instance to investigate new sensor technologies that could support the delivery of medicines to our body or to diagnose diseases. To make them easier to study scientists are working on new ways to immobilise membranes on solid substrates. They use floating supported bilayers (FSBs) as these do not interact with the substrate. However FSBs can be unstable and little dense, making them difficult to immobilise. Thanks to the NMI3 Joint Research Activity on Tools for Soft and Bio-Materials , a group of scientists have proposed a new approach to produce FSBs so that the situation can finally be improved. By using gold and magnetic layers to enhance their neutron reflectivity experiments, they made great progress in producing a lipid bilayer. The first layer (SAM ‒ a self-assembled monolayer) was completely formed whereas the second layer was a stable FSB that covered the first layer almost completely. This new approach is a significant step forward on the fabrication of FSBs as it is simple, stable and able to create complete layers. These findings might open new doors in the field of medicine. Original publication Hughes AV, Holt SA, Daulton E, Soliakov A, Charlton TR, Roser SJ, Lakey JH (2014), High coverage fluid-phase floating lipid bilayers supported by ω-thiolipid self-assembled monolayers, J R Soc Interface, 11(98):20140447. DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2014.0447. NMI3 is a European consortium of 18 partner organisations from 12 countries, including all major facilities in the fields of neutron scattering and muon spectroscopy. It receives funding from the European Union's 7th Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under the NMI3-II Grant number 283883.

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