Using Lipid Bilayers in an Artificial Axon System

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Virginia Tech


Since the rise of multicellular organisms, nature has created a wide range of solutions for life on Earth. This diverse set of solutions presents a broad design space for a number of bio-inspired technologies in many different fields. Of particular interest for this work is the computational and processing power of neurons in the brain. Neuronal networks for transmitting and processing signals have advantages to their electronic counterparts in terms of power efficiency and the ability to handle component failure. In this thesis, an artificial axon system using droplet on hydrogel bilayers (DHBs) in conjunction with alamethicin channels was developed to show properties of action potential signal propagation that occur in myelinated nerve cells. The research demonstrates that the artificial axon system is capable of modifying signals that travel perpendicular to a lipid bilayer interface due to the voltage-gating properties of alamethicin within the connected bilayer. The system was used to show a signal boosting behavior similar to what occurs in the nodes of Ranvier of a myelinated axon. In addition, the artificial axon system was used to show that alamethicin channels within a lipid bilayer behave similarly to slow-acting potassium channels in a real axon in that they follow a sigmoid activation curve in response to a step potential change.



Lipid bilayer, droplet interface bilayer, droplet on hydrogel bilayer (DHB), alamethicin, artificial axon system