JUL 24, 2016 06:59 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 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
JUL 31, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
JUL 31, 2018
A Brand New Geometric Shape
Cell use this shape when packing together to form structures....
AUG 05, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
AUG 05, 2018
The Major Health Risks Posed by Cipro
In recent years, studies have shown that a once-popular class of antibiotics can have life-threatening side effects....
AUG 13, 2018
Videos
AUG 13, 2018
One Cell was Consumed by Another in a Evolutionary Leap
A process called endosymbiosis may have given evolution a lot of help....
AUG 23, 2018
Microbiology
AUG 23, 2018
Environmental Nanoparticles May be Harming Cells
Researchers suggest that we take time to learn more about the synthetic chemicals we're releasing into the environment....
AUG 28, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
AUG 28, 2018
Finding the Source of a Common Immune Cell
Neutrophils are a highly abundant type of immune cell, outnumbering every other kind that runs through the bloodstream....
OCT 02, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
OCT 02, 2018
Approved Drug may Slow the Progression of Alzheimer's
For many, Alzheimer's disease is just a fact of old age; around 50 percent of people that live to age 85 will get the disorder....
Loading Comments...