JUL 24, 2016 6:59 AM PDT

Artificial Cell Membrane Capable of Remodeling is Created

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch
Researchers at the University of California San Diego have been hard at work developing artificial replicas of cell membranes. Last year they were able to create synthetic membranes that were able to grow. Now, they report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they’ve made artificial cell membranes that mimic the functions of mammalian cell membranes; they can grow and reshape themselves. 
In this video from the lab of Neal Devaraj, the lipids in their synthetic membrane can be seen undergoing spontaneous remodeling. This is a breakthrough for artificial cell membranes; up to this point, no one has invented a straightforward way to make make membranes that are able to mimic lipid remodeling.

The scientists are close to replicating natural cell membranes, normally composed of sheets of lipids. They can now be completely made with engineered ingredients. Importantly, this will enable investigators to create drugs that target the cell membrane and its proteins more effectively, as well as aid in developing a deeper understanding of membrane dysfunction due to disease.

“While artificial membranes have been used to model the properties of native membranes, previous methods have not been able to mimic lipid membrane remodeling,” explained Devaraj, an Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UC San Diego and the leader of the research team for this paper and previous work on the topic. “In our latest study, we show that reversible chemical reactions can be harnessed to achieve spontaneous remodeling of lipids in synthetic membranes,” he continued.
This sequence (and the video) shows the spontaneous remodeling of lipids in a synthetic membrane./Credit: Devaraj Lab, UC San Diego
Cells utilize enzymatic methods to constantly remodel and adjust their membranes, which has a effects on the other molecules in the area.

“Cells use lipid remodeling to respond to their environment and maintain membrane homeostasis or to carry out specific functions such as division and signaling,” said a graduate student in the Devaraj lab, Andrew Rudd, one author of the study. “Using phospholipid remodeling allows cells to generate new phospholipid species by recycling existing phospholipids instead of making them from scratch. This saves the cell time and energy.”

Devaraj thinks their achievements will give biochemists a way to improve the understanding of the many changes that occur in cellular membranes during lipid remodeling.

“One exciting application would be to probe the behavior of bound and integral membrane proteins in response to shifts in membrane composition,” suggested Roberto Brea, the lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow in the Devaraj lab. “Integral membrane proteins are extremely important and common drug targets and we need a way to understand their behavior in lipid bilayers. This is one way to do that.”

Sources: University of California, San Diego, PNAS
About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
SEP 25, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Researchers Take Organoids a Step Further
SEP 25, 2020
Researchers Take Organoids a Step Further
The human body is made of many different kinds of cells, which can often be cultured in a lab and studied. However, thos ...
OCT 14, 2020
Neuroscience
Researchers Pinpoint Neurons Affected by Epilepsy
OCT 14, 2020
Researchers Pinpoint Neurons Affected by Epilepsy
Video: Explains in more detail the different receptors affected by epilepsy. Researchers at the University of Copenhagen ...
OCT 26, 2020
Cancer
Investigating the Receptor Protein FPR1 in Brain Cancer
OCT 26, 2020
Investigating the Receptor Protein FPR1 in Brain Cancer
Amongst the more common targets for cancer therapies are cell surface receptors. These receptors are proteins – us ...
NOV 01, 2020
Plants & Animals
Plant Hormone Auxin Helps Orient Growth of Plant Veins
NOV 01, 2020
Plant Hormone Auxin Helps Orient Growth of Plant Veins
There are veins in plants that move nutrients and other important molecules around. These veins have to be carefully org ...
NOV 02, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Catching Cells in the Act of Self-Repair
NOV 02, 2020
Catching Cells in the Act of Self-Repair
Cells have to be flexible and move with each other and our bodies. When cells get overstretched, they have to be able to ...
NOV 17, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Chronic Inflammation Lowers Levels of Aging-Linked Molecule
NOV 17, 2020
Chronic Inflammation Lowers Levels of Aging-Linked Molecule
Over the years, the molecule nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) has gone from being a player in some biochemical p ...
Loading Comments...