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New windows opened on cell-to-cell interactions

Applying biological molecules from cell membranes to the surfaces of artificial materials is opening peepholes on the very basics of cell-to-cell interaction.

Two recently published papers by a University of Oregon biophysicist and colleagues suggest that putting lipids and other cell membrane components on manufactured surfaces could lead to new classes of self-assembling materials for use in precision optics, nanotechnology, electronics and pharmaceuticals.

Though the findings are basic, they provide new directions for research to help understand nature at nanotechnological scales where the orientation of minuscule proteins is crucial, said Raghuveer Parthasarathy, who is a member of the UO's Material Science Institute, the Institute of Molecular Biology and the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI).

(Parthasarathy discusses his research at, and he summarizes the studies described below at:

Controlling interactions between colloidal materials

In the May issue of Soft Matter, a journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry, UO doctoral student Yupeng Kong and Parthasarathy applied biological material -- a thin layer of membrane lipids -- onto to tiny glass spheres about one-millionth of a meter in diameter to closely study colloidal interaction.

Colloids are tiny particles found dispersed in liquids: in milk, paints, many food stuffs, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Compared to atoms and molecules colloids are big, and creating artificial colloids with directed properties is a goal in many technologies, especially optics at nanoscales.

Before applying the biomembrane, the identical negatively charged spheres repelled each other. With the membrane attached, conditions ch

Contact: Jim Barlow
University of Oregon

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