HomeChemistryResearchers develop novel microscopic picoshell particles

Researchers develop novel microscopic picoshell particles

High-energy fats by microalgae provides a sustainable, renewable energy source. This can help tackle climate change. Microalgae produce lipids rapidly which usually grow slowly themselves. It makes it difficult to increase overall yields.

UCLA bioengineers have created have created a new type of petri dish. They have created it in the form of microscopic, permeable particles. These particles can dramatically speed up research and development timelines of biological products. This includes fatty acids for biofuels.  Dubbed PicoShells, picoliter, porous, hydrogel particles can enable more than one million individual cells to be compartmentalized.

A study has been recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study has details of how PicoShells work and their potential applications.

PicoShells have a hollow inner cavity. Here cells are encapsulated. A porous outer shell allows for continuous solution exchange with the external environment so that nutrients. Cell-communication molecules and cytotoxic cellular byproducts can transport freely in and out of the inner cavity. The shell keeps the small groups of growing cells penned in. This has allowed scientists to study and compare their behaviors of other groups inside various PicoShells.

Scientists grow living, single-cell microorganisms under the same industrial-production conditions. This includes a bioreactor filled with wastewater.

Flow chart showing how PicoShells are used
Flow chart showing how PicoShells are used. Credit: Mark van Zee/UCLA

PicoShells’ can bring the lab to the industrial environment. This allowed testing at a sectioned-off area of a working facility. Growth occurred more quickly. Cell strains performed well and can be identified for further screening.

Scientists think, another advantage of the new tool analysis millions of PicoShells. It is automated as it is compatible with standard lab equipment.

Massive groups of cells can be sorted and organized by certain characteristics. Continuous analysis results in ideal sets of cells. When they are performing well in the environment with suitable temperature, nutrient composition can be used in mass production. It can be used in just a few days rather than the several months.


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