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

JPK announces expansion of its global sales and service activities in China and USA April 15th, 2014

Nanobiotix Appoints Thierry Otin as Head of Manufacturing and Supply April 15th, 2014

PAM-XIAMEN Offers UV LED wafer April 15th, 2014

Engineers develop new materials for hydrogen storage April 15th, 2014

Videos/Movies

Tiny particles could help verify goods: Chemical engineers hope smartphone-readable microparticles could crack down on counterfeiting April 15th, 2014

Biologists Develop Nanosensors to Visualize Movements and Distribution of Plant Stress Hormone April 15th, 2014

Director Wally Pfister joins UC Berkeley neuroengineers to discuss the science behind ‘Transcendence’ April 7th, 2014

KEEP CALM and PUBLISH PAPERS – a new video blog with graphic tutorials to scientific publishing April 7th, 2014

Possible Futures

Virus structure inspires novel understanding of onion-like carbon nanoparticles April 10th, 2014

Local girl does good March 22nd, 2014

Surface Characteristics Influence Cellular Growth on Semiconductor Material March 12th, 2014

The "Tipping Point" February 12th, 2014

Academic/Education

Director Wally Pfister joins UC Berkeley neuroengineers to discuss the science behind ‘Transcendence’ April 7th, 2014

First annual science week highlights STEM pipeline and partnerships: UB, SUNY Buffalo State and ECC team up with the City of Buffalo and its schools for April 7-11 events April 3rd, 2014

Global 450 consortium announces new general manager of internal operations: TSMC’s Cheng-Chung Chien Receives Unanimous Support, Brings History of Innovation and Efficiency to Global Consortium of Companies Driving Industry Transition to 450mm Wafer Technology March 26th, 2014

NanoTecNexus to Host "Chemistry of Wine" Fundraiser in Support of STEM Education - Collaborations Key to Success - March 20th, 2014

Nanomedicine

Nanobiotix Appoints Thierry Otin as Head of Manufacturing and Supply April 15th, 2014

PAM-XIAMEN Offers UV LED wafer April 15th, 2014

Nanocrystalline cellulose modified into an efficient viral inhibitor April 15th, 2014

Targeting cancer with a triple threat: MIT chemists design nanoparticles that can deliver three cancer drugs at a time April 15th, 2014

Announcements

Tiny particles could help verify goods: Chemical engineers hope smartphone-readable microparticles could crack down on counterfeiting April 15th, 2014

A molecular approach to solar power: Switchable material could harness the power of the sun — even when it’s not shining April 15th, 2014

Targeting cancer with a triple threat: MIT chemists design nanoparticles that can deliver three cancer drugs at a time April 15th, 2014

Biologists Develop Nanosensors to Visualize Movements and Distribution of Plant Stress Hormone April 15th, 2014

Nanobiotechnology

Targeting cancer with a triple threat: MIT chemists design nanoparticles that can deliver three cancer drugs at a time April 15th, 2014

Biologists Develop Nanosensors to Visualize Movements and Distribution of Plant Stress Hormone April 15th, 2014

In latest generation of tiny biosensors, size isn't everything: UCLA researchers overturn conventional wisdom on nanowire-based diagnostic devices April 11th, 2014

Virus structure inspires novel understanding of onion-like carbon nanoparticles April 10th, 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