HMC Physics Colloquium

Tuesdays at 16:30 in Shanahan Center for Teaching and Learning, Room B460

Huen Jin Lee


Using Mechanics to Describe Cell Membrane Structures

Jan. 29, 2008

The membranes of a cell are organized in a great variety of shapes and sizes, from the outer cell wall to its internal organelles. While the spatial distribution of these membranous structures have been well characterized (particularly on the micron scale), far less is known about the underlying physical mechanics responsible for even the simplest shapes. A simple physical idea to describe these structures is to view them as elastic sheets under force. We will present two experimental case studies which examine the role of force in membrane structure - one related to synthetic reconstituted vesicles and the other related to live phagocytic cells (immune cells that eat foreign material). From these studies, we will demonstrate reasonable qualitative and quantitative agreement between the experimental observations and biophysical models of membrane deformation and force generation.