The inner workings of living organisms have inspired all kinds of new man-made materials. Naturally-occurring drugs can be analysed for their chemical structures and then mimicked in the lab; ingenious biological structures are being carefully examined and their designs put to new uses. Pictured is a sheet of phospholipids – a bendy material that covers our cells with tiny pores, letting nutritious chemicals in and keeping harmful ones out. Superimposed over this microscope picture (with porous areas highlighted in orange), is a computer simulation showing how chemical bonds pull the flower-shaped pores (each 15 million times smaller than a daffodil) into a hexagonal pattern or ‘lattice’. Porous phospholipids might one day be moulded into tiny containers designed to release drugs precisely into diseased cells in the body.
Written by John Ankers
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.