Lab on a chip

Droplet-based lipid bilayer system integrated with microfluidic channels for solution exchange.

PMID 23450304


This paper proposes a solution exchange of a droplet-based lipid bilayer system, in which the inner solution of a droplet is replaced for the purpose of efficient ion channel analyses. In our previous report, we successfully recorded the channel conductance of alpha-hemolysin in a bilayer lipid membrane using a droplet contact method that can create a spontaneous lipid bilayer at the interface of contacting droplets; this method is widely used as highly efficient method for preparing planar lipid membranes. When only pipetting droplets of the solution, this method is highly efficient for preparing lipid membranes. However, the drawback of droplet-based systems is their inability to exchange the solution within the droplets. To study the effect of inhibitors and promoters of ion channels in drug discovery, it would be beneficial to conduct a solution exchange of droplets to introduce membrane proteins and to apply or wash-out the chemicals. In this study, we propose a droplet contact method that allows for the solution exchange of droplets via microfluidic channels. We experimentally and numerically investigated the bilayer stability with respect to exchanging flow rates, and then demonstrated a binding assay of an alpha-hemolysin using one of its blockers. The solution exchange in this system was conducted in less than 20 s without rupturing the membrane. We believe that the proposed system will enhance the efficiency of ion channel analyses.