Biochemists at the University of California San Diego have developed artificial cell membranes that grow and remodel themselves in a manner similar to that of living mammalian cells.
The achievement, detailed in a paper published in this week’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, follows the successful design last year in the same laboratory of artificial, or synthetic, cell membranes capable of sustaining continual growth. The two developments now bring the researchers closer to mimicking all of the properties of living mammalian cell membranes with synthetic components.
That’s important because synthetic membranes that accurately mimic the behavior of living mammalian cell membranes could be used by biomedical researchers to develop more effective drugs that target membrane proteins and better understand the chemical changes that occur in dysfunctional membranes during 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,” said Neal Devaraj, an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UC San Diego who headed the research team for both studies. “In our latest study, we show that reversible chemical reactions can be harnessed to achieve spontaneous remodeling of lipids in synthetic membranes.”
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