Food, Global Health 2 min

A new technique to encapsulate biomolecules

PRESS RELEASE - Scientists from INRA, CNRS and Université de Bordeaux have managed to develop a new technique that enables the production of microparticles that can spontaneously store biomolecules (colloidosomes). For the first time, they have designed such an encapsulation system in water, without using either solvent or oil. Published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition on 25 June 2018, these findings open perspectives for the development of new types of capsules containing active substances, and more generally for the creation of artificial cells.

Published on 25 June 2018

illustration A new technique to encapsulate biomolecules

The formulation of compartments (or capsules) that can encapsulate biological materials (proteins, enzymes, DNA, etc.) is of considerable interest not only from an industrial point of view but fundamentally regarding the development of artificial cells. The best known compartments, liposomes, form from lipids and are notably used for cosmetic purposes. Other compartments are based on ‘colloidal’1particles, and are thus called ‘colloidosomes’.

Until now, these colloidosomes were produced by adding particles (such as latex or silica, etc.) to oil/water emulsions to form so-called ‘Pickering’ emulsions (from the name of the British scientist who discovered this phenomenon in the early 20th century). These particles are then linked chemically to form robust capsules that can be transferred to water. However, use of the solvents and oil necessary for their manufacture constitutes an obstacle to their development, because the active substances need to be added at the start of manufacture and may therefore be destroyed by the solvents.

A new oil- and solvent-free system

For the first time, scientists from INRA, CNRS and Université de Bordeaux, working in collaboration with a team from University of Bristol (UK) have developed a novel method to produce these colloidosomes directly in water using neither solvent nor oil. Their approach is based on so-called ‘water-in-water’ emulsions that form notably in mixtures of ‘incompatible’ polymers. In this system, polymer-enriched droplets are dispersed in a medium enriched in another polymer. The scientists were able to show that latex particles moved to the interface between droplets and thus formed water-in-water Pickering emulsions.  They then succeeded in gelling the interior of these droplets, thus forming colloidosomes directly in the aqueous phase. The advantage of these systems is that they are known to spontaneously ‘sequestrate’ biological material and active substances within the droplets. The scientists thus revealed that these colloidosomes could indeed spontaneously sequestrate fluorescent entities. Their findings open the way towards future studies on the encapsulation of biological materials and active substances in new types of capsules. In the years to come, these results may enable the development of colloidosome-type capsules in the context of creating artificial cells.

1 Small particles in suspension in a liquid.

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Food, Global Health

The secret multicellular lives of viruses

PRESS RELEASE - INRA, CIRAD, and CNRS researchers recently made an unprecedented discovery: the different genomic segments of a multipartite virus can occupy distinct cells within their host but still work together to generate infection. This finding challenges a key paradigm in virology, notably that a virus’s entire genome must enter a given cell and replicate therein before repeating the process in subsequent cells, thus causing infection. It is the first time that a virus has been shown to have a multicellular mode of existence, and this way of life may occur in other viruses as well. These findings should fuel novel research perspectives in virology.

02 April 2020