Recent advancements and applications of nanofabrication have enabled the characterization and control of biological membranes at submicron scales. This review focuses on the application of nanofabrication towards the nanoscale observing, patterning, sorting, and concentrating membrane components. Membranes on living cells are a necessary component of many fundamental cellular processes that naturally incorporate nanoscale rearrangement of the membrane lipids and proteins. Nanofabrication has advanced these understandings, for example, by providing 30 nm resolution of membrane proteins with metal-enhanced fluorescence at the tip of a scanning probe on fixed cells. Naturally diffusing single molecules at high concentrations on live cells have been observed at 60 nm resolution by confining the fluorescence excitation light through nanoscale metallic apertures. The lateral reorganization on the plasma membrane during membrane-mediated signaling processes has been examined in response to nanoscale variations in the patterning and mobility of the signal-triggering molecules. Further, membrane components have been separated, concentrated, and extracted through on-chip electrophoretic and microfluidic methods. Nanofabrication provides numerous methods for examining and manipulating membranes for both greater understandings of membrane processes as well as for the application of membranes to other biophysical methods.
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