These brightly-coloured spheres might look like Christmas tree decorations, but inside our bodies they do more than just hang around. Liposomes are man-made ‘bombs’ – each measuring 1,000 times smaller than a festive bauble or hand grenade – moulded from the same materials as the bendy membranes inside our cells. The different blends of lipid [fat] and protein molecules in these designs have produced unique patterns in fluorescent dyes visible under a microscope. Pretty as they are, only certain liposomes have the strength and flexibility to do an explosive delivery job. Piped full of drugs and injected into the body, liposomes can be primed to burst open when they collide with the membranes of unhealthy cells. The swirling textures of these tiny smart bombs offer clues about how our natural membranes act as selective barriers – keeping volatile chemicals separate while allowing others to mix in vital, life-giving reactions.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.