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Structure, Mechanics, and Complexity of Lipid Membranes

Mohamed Laradji

Physics Department, The University of Memphis


MEMPHYS-Center for Biomembrane Physics, Univ. of Southern Denmark, Denmark

March 29th, 2006, 4:00pm, Manning Hall 201

Refreshments served at 3:30pm, Manning Hall 222

Biomembranes are quasi-two-dimensional, fluid, self-assembled structures composed mainly of lipid molecules and a small amount of cholesterol and proteins, with energies only tens of the thermal energy. They have unique structural and functional properties that express the exquisite exactness of purpose reflective of natural evolution during the last five billion years.

The primary roles that biomembranes play are (i) the separation between the inner and outer environments of the cell (or organelles such the nucleus, Golgi apparatus, and mitochondria), and (ii) the support of a complex molecular machinery important for both a wide variety of biochemical functions and the structural integrity of the cell. Nanoscale to micronscale mimetic lipid membranes in the form of vesicles (called liposomes) are used as simplified models to understand biomembranes as well as in many applications including drug delivery and cosmetics.

In this colloquium, after introducing the audience to the fascinating world of self-assemblies and lipid membranes, I will discuss how a theoretical physicist using relatively simplified models can contribute to the understanding of the mechanics, structure, stability and heterogeneities of lipid membranes. In particular, I will discuss our recent proposal regarding the stability of nanoscale lipid domains in biomembranes known as rafts.

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