Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Lipid Service

Insight in the membrane – how the cell membrane could be manipulated to deliver drugs or kill cancer cells

11 October 2020

Lipid Service

The lipid membranes wrapping our cells swirl with chemical currents, a bit like the rainbow spirals we see on the surface of soap bubbles catching the light. The same is true for vesicles, tiny membrane pockets (10,000 times smaller than a soap bubble) which shuttle precious cargoes around inside and between our cells. The molecular makeup of a vesicle’s membrane affects its structure, flexibility, even how it reacts on contact with cells. Pictured under a high-powered microscope, these lab-created vesicles contain sphingolipids creating rigid membrane regions, seen as separate dark ‘domains’ in the swirly fluid surface, artificially stained red. Investigating different mixtures of sphingolipids may help to build vesicles to transport and release drugs inside the body, or, as suggested by another recent study, to concoct combinations which are toxic to cancer cells.

Written by John Ankers

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