Exploring Giant Unilamellar Vesicle Production for Artificial Cells – Current Challenges and Future Directions
Creating an artificial cell from the bottom up is a long-standing challenge and, while significant progress has been made, the full realization of this goal remains elusive. Arguably, one of the biggest hurdles that researchers are facing now is the assembly of different modules of cell function inside a single container. Giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) have emerged as a suitable container with many methods available for their production. Well-studied swelling-based methods offer a wide range of lipid compositions but at the expense of limited encapsulation efficiency. Emulsion-based methods, on the other hand, excel at encapsulation but are only effective with a limited set of membrane compositions and may entrap residual additives in the lipid bilayer. Since the ultimate artificial cell will need to comply with both specific membrane and encapsulation requirements, there is still no one-method-fits-all solution for GUV formation available today. This review discusses the state of the art in different GUV production methods and their compatibility with GUV requirements and operational requirements such as reproducibility and ease of use. It concludes by identifying the most pressing issues and proposes potential avenues for future research to bring us one step closer to turning artificial cells into a reality.