Nature uses lipid membranes as a universal wrap around cells, and there is increasing evidence that it controls critical cell functions by reorganizing lipid membranes into rafts. Lipid-rafts are nanometer- to micron-size domains of laterally phase separated lipids whose occurrence coincides with changes in the local cell surface topography, local valency, and membrane integrity. These structural changes seem to correlate with several critical cell functions including cell signaling and viral infection mechanisms, but the molecular processes regulating these changes are still largely unknown.
We use model lipid membranes to study simplified processes that alter the surface topography, the apparent activity/valency of functionalized membranes, the membrane permeability and fusogenicity, with the aim to potentially contribute to the understanding and control of related cell functions and associated diseases. We design and study such simplified pH-dependent processes on model functionalized lipid bilayers in the form of small unilamellar vesicles and giant unilamellar vesicles. Integration of these processes on nanometer-sized lipid vesicles used as drug delivery carriers may precisely control their interactions with diseased cells increasing therapeutic efficacy while minimizing toxicities. Examples of improving the therapeutic potential in targeted liposomal immunochemotherapy will be presented.
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