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Tailoring interactions in biomimetic emulsions

Laetitia Pontani Institut des Nanosciences de Paris, Université Pierre et Marie Curie

Emulsions are a model system for jammed matter but can also be used for the synthesis of biomimetic tissues or even patchy particles for self assembly. We designed bio-inspired emulsions that are stabilized with phospholipids and functionalized with proteins in order to mimic specific cellular functions, such as lipid domain formation, cell-cell adhesion or even hemifusion. Moreover the adhesion energy between such droplets, controlling their assembly in 3D, can be tuned through the binders grafted on the surface : quasi-permanent bonds are created through biotin-streptavidin links, while reversible bonds are created with complementary single DNA strands. We therefore use this versatile system to quantify the effect of forces on intercellular adhesion in a simplified framework. In addition to this, we use the emulsion system to control the interactions between the droplets in order to drive their directed self-assembly into 3D structures. For example, immiscible lipids on the surface of emulsion droplets are used to create stable domain patterns, which provides a route for patchy particle synthesis. Functionalizing these patches with binders allows us to assemble the droplets with a given valency leading to doublets for a valency of 1, or droplet chains for a valency of 2. Bio-inspired emulsions are therefore a useful system for problems in biophysics, but also provide a new class of liquid patchy particles for self-assembly.