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Berkeley Lab scientists develop new tool for the study of spatial patterns in living cells
Date:11/1/2011

Football has often been called "a game of inches," but biology is a game of nanometers, where spatial differences of only a few nanometers can determine the fate of a cell - whether it lives or dies, remains normal or turns cancerous. Scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have developed a new and better way to study the impact of spatial patterns on living cells.

Chemist Jay Groves led a study in which artificial membranes made up of a fluid bilayer of lipid molecules were embedded with fixed arrays of gold nanoparticles to control the spacing of proteins and other cellular molecules placed on the membranes. This provided the researchers with an unprecedented opportunity to study how the spatial patterns of chemical and physical properties on membrane surfaces influence the behavior of cells.

"The gold nanoparticles are similar to the size of a single protein molecule, which gets us to a scale we couldn't really access before," says Groves. "As the first example of a biological membrane platform that combines fixed nanopatterning with the mobility of fluid lipid bilayers, our technique represents an important improvement over previous patterning methods."

Groves holds joint appointments with Berkeley Lab's Physical Biosciences Division and the University of California (UC) Berkeley's Chemistry Department, and is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator. He is the corresponding author of a paper that reports these results in the journal Nano Letters. The paper is titled "Supported Membranes Embedded with Fixed Arrays of Gold Nanoparticles."

Spatial patterning of chemical and physical properties on artificial membranes of lipid bilayers is a time-tested way to study the behavior of cultured biological cells. Natural lipid bilayer membranes surround virtually all living cells as well as many of the structures inside the cell including the n
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Contact: Lynn Yarris
lcyarris@lbl.gov
510-486-5375
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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