Giant lipid vesicles can be potentially used as biocompatible carriers with a large lumen cavity adequate for lodging large biomacromolecules in an aqueous compartment. New developments in controlled delivery are strongly troubled by the high polydispersity of the preparations and the limitations in the encapsulation abilities inherent to conventional preparative methods. Engineering smart vesicles with tunable and remotely controllable properties such as permeability, osmotic deformability or inducible instability, necessary for adequate delivery, is indeed a major synthetic challenge. This implies a number of basic operations, which include bilayer assembly, composite membrane stabilization, encapsulation
and compartmentalization, a set of procedures requiring a novel approach.
For this performance, we propose the use of microfluidic technology and high-speed imagining to design and study the active response to photo-irradiation of smart giant unilamellar lipid vesicles with plasmonic gold nanoparticles embedded in the membrane. Excitation of the surface plasmons of the nanoparticles produces localized heating of the membrane, thus controllable changes in permeability, which could eventually result in an enhanced osmotic-driven flow of solvent across the membrane and cause an overall change in size and shape of the entire vesicle.
Using these model systems we will be able to shed light on the physical mechanisms involved in the transference of conformational- to mechanical- energy, which could be relevant to a broad range of scientific problems ranging from the fundamental knowledge in cell biology, concerned by the study of cellular functions such as endo- and exocytosis and cell motility, to applications in drug delivery and material engineering, both enrolled in the development of hybrid materials able to exert nastic motions inducible by external stimuli.