Colloquium

Cholesterol in membranes

Fri, 27 Jan 2017 2:30 PM
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Colloquium
Cholesterol in membranes

Jenifer Thewalt
Department of Physics, SFU

Jan. 27 2017 at 2:30pm in C9000

Synopsis

Cholesterol, lauded by Nobel prize winner Konrad Bloch as the pinnacle of sterol evolution, is one of the major lipids that distinguishes our membranes from those of bacteria. Most of the cholesterol in our bodies serves a structural role, strengthening and leak-proofing the outermost membranes of our cells. Using biophysical techniques - with a heavy emphasis on solid state deuterium NMR spectroscopy - we have explored the physical attributes of a wide range of cholesterol-containing membranes. To give you a flavour of cholesterol's versatility, three of these will be introduced. 1) Cholesterol enables the formation of the liquid ordered phase, thought to be central to the function of cell membranes. 2) In an extreme form of leak-proofing, cholesterol is a major constituent of the barrier lipids in the outer layer of the skin. 3) Certain biopharmaceuticals must be shepherded to their site of action by cholesterol-containing lipid nanoparticles