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Posted: August 24, 2010
Surface acoustic waves convert cell membrane into nano-conveyor belt
(Nanowerk News) Membranes protect every single cell of our body. They have an average size of only a few nanometers and separate the interior of the cell from the surrounding area. By doing this they control exactly which substances are allowed to enter the cell. Illustrations often give the impression that membranes are stiff formations. In reality they are as viscous as olive oil and moreover highly dynamic.
This fact was used by the research groups of Professor Joachim Rädler (LMU), Professor Achim Wixforth (Universität Augsburg) and Professor Matthias Schneider (Boston University) through collaboration within the cluster of excellence "Nanosytems Initiative Munich (NIM)".
The scientists discovered ("Transport, Separation, and Acculumation of Proteins on Supported Lipid Bilayers") that exposure to standing surface acoustic waves (SAWs) influences the distribution of the membrane´s lipids. For this experiment they had to fix the membrane onto a special surface. The physicists could demonstrate that the new method also works for the separation of lipid-bound proteins: it can concentrate the proteins at predefined parts of the membrane, separate various kinds of proteins and, by using SAWs, transport them similar to conveyor belts. This fact could be an important contribution for the realization of extremely small laboratories, so-called "Lab-on-a-Chip".