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Acidity can change cell membrane properties, study shows

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Posted October 2, 2013

Of all the amazing technologies humans have developed, none has matched the complexity of the fundamental building block of nature: the living cell. And none of the cell’s activities would be possible without thin lipid membranes, or bilayers,that separate its parts and regulate their functions.

Understanding and controlling bilayers’ properties is vital for advances in biology and biotechnology. Now an interdisciplinary team of Northwestern University researchers has determined how to control bilayers’ crystallization by altering the acidity of their surroundings.

The research, published September 24 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, sheds light on cell function and could enable advances in drug delivery and bio-inspired technology.

“In nature, living things function at a delicate balance: acidity, temperature, all its surroundings must be within specific limits, or they die,” said co-author Monica Olvera de la Cruz, Lawyer Taylor Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Chemistry, and (by courtesy) Chemical and Biological Engineering at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering. “When living things can adapt, however, they are more functional. We wanted to find the specific set of conditions under which bilayers, which control so much of the cell, can morph in nature.”The research, published September 24 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, sheds light on cell function and could enable advances in drug delivery and bio-inspired technology.Understanding and controlling bilayers’ properties is vital for advances in biology and biotechnology. Now an interdisciplinary team of Northwestern University researchers has determined how to control bilayers’ crystallization by altering the acidity of their surroundings.

Read more at: Phys.org

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