Liposomes are small sacks that are normally full of a liquid. They are made of the same material as cell membranes normally consisting of a at least on lipid layer. They were discovered and then intentionally developed in the 1960s and now they are often used for transporting various chemicals such as pharmaceutical drugs into the body. Currently however only thirteen drugs are considered safe for liposomal delivery with five more in clinical trials. Developing new ways of creating liposomes would mean more drugs could be attached and testing could begin as soon as possible.
Microfluidics is the study and application of liquids (and sometimes gases) when they are operating in areas less that a drop. Often liquids act a lot differently on this scale than they do at a larger one. For instance these fluids don’t mix very well when they are so small as movement of the liquid is more laminar (straight) than turbulent (chaotic). Liquid at this quantity can be used in micropneumatics and since the individual particles can be charged the most common use is in ink jet printing.
Now a paper has been published that highlights both the benefits and difficulties of using microfluidics to create liposomes. The older batch techniques are generally quite crude and there is less control over physical properties of the liposomes produced. It appears that using microfluidic production methods will offer more finesse to the manufacture. It also seems than a greater range of sizes is available when using the microfluid method but there are difficulties in getting this process to be industrially commercial. Development of ethanol based batch processes is on its way but it may be some time before a truly efficient system can be used for manufacturing these liposomes.