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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study


IAS Fellow's Public Lecture - Cubic Membranes: the nature nano-gallery of art

25th February 2019, 17:30 to 18:30, Birley Room, Hatfield College, Dr Zakaria Almsherqi (National University of Singapore)


Cell membranes are of fundamental importance for biological systems. They provide cellular compartmentalization and control the internal cell environment. The cell membrane is not a solid structure and it can fold itself into a complicated structure termed cubic membrane with scrupulous symmetrical arrangements. The same geometry is well studied in other disciplines such as mathematics, architecture, art, physics and polymer chemistry.

Symmetry and patterns in Nature are visible regularities recurring in different contexts like tree leaves, spirals, waves, foams, and ice crystals, to name a few. At nano level, biological membranes may arrange themselves in a similar sophisticated pattern yet with astonishing symmetry. Several sets of membrane arrangements exhibit symmetry such as parallel membranes, whorls and hexagonal packing of tubes. Specifically, the cubic membrane exhibits distinct morphological patterns when projected and this may be translated into unique signatures in different directions. The patterned membrane organization of cubic membranes consists of a network arranged in a uniform order and evenly spaced. Therefore, through an overall inspection of the cell micrographs, cubic membranes are recognized via perceptual cues of the patterned membrane organization.

In this talk, several examples of cubic membrane patterns depicted from different cell types under physiological and pathological conditions will be presented. Furthermore, the potential role of cubic membrane in biological systems such as light manipulation, facilitation of molecule movements within the cell and between the cells, will be discussed.

This lecture is free and open to all.

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