The structural characteristics of liposomes have been widely investigated and there is certainly a strong understanding of their morphological characteristics. Imaging of these systems, using techniques such as freeze-fracturing methods, transmission electron microscopy, and cryo-electron imaging, has allowed us to appreciate their bilayer structures and factors that influence this. However, there are a few methods that study these systems in their natural hydrated state; commonly, the liposomes are visualized after drying, staining and/or fixation of the vesicles. Environmental scanning electron microscopy (ESEM) offers the ability to image a liposome in its hydrated state without the need for prior sample preparation. We were the first to use ESEM to study the liposomes and niosomes, and have been able to dynamically follow the hydration of lipid films and changes in liposome suspensions as water condenses onto, or evaporates from, the sample in real-time. This provides an insight into the resistance of liposomes to coalescence during dehydration, thereby providing an alternative assay for liposome formulation and stability.
- microscopy, electron, scanning
- surface-active agents