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Cell Membrane Fluidity

A flash tutorial on cell membrane fluidity

How fluidity affects cell metabolism receptors and cell signaling

Membrane Fluidity

Vital for numerous cell functions

Most of us see a cell as a rigid structure.

In fact the membrane that surrounds and protects the integrity of a cell is quite fluid. It is like a ‘sea’ surrounding the inner world of a single cell.

Cell signaling, receptor sensitivity, cell adhesion, cell permeability and metabolism, plus a host of other cellular functions are dependent on this membrane fluidity. Cell membrane fluidity is still a hypothesis backed by solid research which lost favour but has reemerged due to the discovery of ‘lipid rafts’.

It is the unsaturated fatty acids with the kinks produced by their double bonds that increase membrane fluidity. Saturated fats make cell membranes rigid.

Ground breaking and elegant “species-crossover” experiments at Wollongong University headed by Professor A.J. Hulbert, showed that cell membranes were the 'pacemakers' of cell metabolism for a particular species. Cell membrane transfer studies were painstakingly carried to produce hybrid cells. This study showed that fatty acid composition and in particular the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio determined metabolic rate and that fluidity is increased with increasing DHA levels as DHA is the most unsaturated of the PUFAs having 6 double bonds.

This is yet another aspect of cellular function that is highly dependent on dietary practices and how health is the product of what you eat. 

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