Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors





Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


android tablet pc

Home > Press > Cell membranes behave like cornstarch and water

Raghuveer Parthasarathy, a professor of physics and member of the UO's Materials Science Institute and Institute of Molecular Biology
Raghuveer Parthasarathy, a professor of physics and member of the UO's Materials Science Institute and Institute of Molecular Biology

Abstract:
Mix two parts cornstarch and one part water. Swirl your fingers in it slowly and the mixture is a smoothly flowing liquid. Punch it quickly with your fist and you meet a rubbery solid -- so solid you can jump up and down on a vat of it.

It turns out that cell membranes — or, more precisely the two-molecule-thick lipid sheets that form the structural basis of all cellular membranes — behave the same way, say University of Oregon scientists.

Cell membranes behave like cornstarch and water

Eugene, OR | Posted on November 3rd, 2010

For decades, researchers have been aware that biological membranes are fluid, and that this fluidity is crucial to allowing the motions and interactions of proteins and other cell surface molecules. The new studies, however, reveal that this state is not the simple Newtonian fluidity of familiar liquids like water, but rather it is viscoelastic. At rest the mixture is very fluid, but when quickly perturbed, it bounces back like rubber.

The discovery is detailed Oct. 25 in the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and it strikes down the notion that these biologically important membranes are Newtonian fluids that flow regardless of the stress they encounter.

"This changes our whole understanding of what lipid membranes are," said Raghuveer Parthasarathy, a professor of physics and member of the UO's Materials Science Institute and Institute of Molecular Biology. "We may need to rethink our understanding of how all sorts of the mechanical processes that occur in cell membranes work, like how proteins are pulled from one place to another, how cells respond to stretching and other forces, and how membrane-embedded proteins that serve as channels for chemical signals are able to open and close.

"A lot of these mechanical tasks go awry in various diseases for reasons that remain mysterious," he said. "Perhaps a deeper understanding of the mechanical environment that membranes provide will illuminate why biology functions, or fails to function, in the way it does."

In the project, freestanding membranes of lipids — fatty molecules that form the basis of all cell membranes — were built with lipid-anchored nanoparticles as tracers that could be observed under high-powered microscopes. Close analysis of the trajectories of these particles allowed researchers to deduce the fluid and elastic properties of the membranes under changing conditions.

Leading the experiments were Christopher W. Harland, who earned a doctorate in physics from the UO last summer and is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Chicago, and Miranda J. Bradley, then a visiting undergraduate student from Portland Community College and now at Portland State University. Bradley studied in Parthasarathy's lab as part of the UO's Undergraduate Catalytic Outreach & Research Experiences (UCORE) program.

The importance of membrane fluidity has been recognized for decades, but membranes' strange character as a viscoelastic material has gone unnoticed, said Parthasarathy, who is among UO scientists involved in the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI). "In retrospect, we shouldn't be surprised. Nature uses viscoelasticity in lots of its other liquids, from mucus to tears. Now we've found that it harnesses viscoelasticity in lipid membranes as well."

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Office of Naval Research through ONAMI and National Science Foundation supported the research.

####

About University of Oregon
The University of Oregon is a world-class teaching and research institution and Oregon's flagship public university. The UO is a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU), an organization made up of the 63 leading public and private research institutions in the United States and Canada. The University of Oregon is one of only two AAU members in the Pacific Northwest.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Media Contact:
Jim Barlow
director of science and research communications

541-346-3481

Source:
Raghuveer Parthasarathy
assistant professor of physics
541-346-2933

Copyright © University of Oregon

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Imaging electric charge propagating along microbial nanowires October 20th, 2014

Design of micro and nanoparticles to improve treatments for Alzheimers and Parkinsons: At the Faculty of Pharmacy of the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country encapsulation techniques are being developed to deliver correctly and effectively certain drugs October 20th, 2014

Physicists build reversible laser tractor beam October 20th, 2014

Removal of Limitations of Composites at Superheat Temperatures October 20th, 2014

Videos/Movies

Ucore's McKenzie to Deliver Presentation to Rare Earths Conference in Singapore as Highlight of Fall 2014 Marketplace Schedule October 19th, 2014

Australian teams set new records for silicon quantum computing October 12th, 2014

Nanoparticles get a magnetic handle: New method produces particles that can glow with color-coded light and be manipulated with magnets October 9th, 2014

NIST quantum probe enhances electric field measurements October 8th, 2014

Possible Futures

Imaging electric charge propagating along microbial nanowires October 20th, 2014

Superconducting circuits, simplified: New circuit design could unlock the power of experimental superconducting computer chips October 18th, 2014

Nanocoatings Market By Product Is Expected To Reach USD 8.17 Billion By 2020: Grand View Research, Inc. October 15th, 2014

Perpetuus Carbon Group Receives Independent Verification of its Production Capacity for Graphenes at 140 Tonnes per Annum: Perpetuus Becomes the First Manufacturer in the Sector to Allow Third Party Audit October 7th, 2014

Academic/Education

First Canada Excellence Research Chair gets $10 million from the federal government for oilsands research at the University of Calgary: Federal government announces prestigious research chair to study improving oil production efficiency October 19th, 2014

Raytheon, UMass Lowell open on-campus research institute: Industry leader’s researchers to collaborate with faculty, students to move key technologies forward through first-of-its-kind partnership October 11th, 2014

SUNY Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Announce Expanded Partnership October 2nd, 2014

Yale University and Leica Microsystems Partner to Establish Microscopy Center of Excellence: Yale Welcomes Scientists to Participate in Core Facility Opening and Super- Resolution Workshops October 20 Through 31, 2014 September 30th, 2014

Nanomedicine

Design of micro and nanoparticles to improve treatments for Alzheimers and Parkinsons: At the Faculty of Pharmacy of the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country encapsulation techniques are being developed to deliver correctly and effectively certain drugs October 20th, 2014

Non-Toxic Nanocatalysts Open New Window for Significant Decrease in Reaction Process October 19th, 2014

European Commission opens the gate towards the implementation of Nanomedicine Translation Hub October 16th, 2014

Tuning light to kill deep cancer tumors: Nanoparticles developed at UMass Medical School advance potential clinical application for photodynamic therapy October 15th, 2014

Announcements

Imaging electric charge propagating along microbial nanowires October 20th, 2014

Design of micro and nanoparticles to improve treatments for Alzheimers and Parkinsons: At the Faculty of Pharmacy of the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country encapsulation techniques are being developed to deliver correctly and effectively certain drugs October 20th, 2014

Physicists build reversible laser tractor beam October 20th, 2014

Removal of Limitations of Composites at Superheat Temperatures October 20th, 2014

Nanobiotechnology

Crystallizing the DNA nanotechnology dream: Scientists have designed the first large DNA crystals with precisely prescribed depths and complex 3D features, which could create revolutionary nanodevices October 20th, 2014

Scientists Map Key Moment in Assembly of DNA-Splitting Molecular Machine: Crucial steps and surprising structures revealed in the genesis of the enzyme that divides the DNA double helix during cell replication October 15th, 2014

DNA nano-foundries cast custom-shaped metal nanoparticles: DNA's programmable assembly is leveraged to form precise 3D nanomaterials for disease detection, environmental testing, electronics and beyond October 10th, 2014

Charged graphene gives DNA a stage to perform molecular gymnastics October 9th, 2014

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE





  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More














ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







© Copyright 1999-2014 7th Wave, Inc. All Rights Reserved PRIVACY POLICY :: CONTACT US :: STATS :: SITE MAP :: ADVERTISE