Peptide liquid crystals
Traditionally, liquid crystals are used in displays for televisions but their oil-like composition makes them unsuitable for biological applications.
Liquid crystals are coming closer to helping amino acids move in membranes
Takashi Kato and co-workers at the University of Tokyo, use a dipeptide made from glutamic acid at the liquid crystal's core. Hydrogen bonding between the glutamic acid units helps form and stabilise columns of molecules, and this is critical to the liquid crystal behaviour. If these liquid crystals can then form complexes with a lipid membrane they could help the transport of ions or amino acids.
Kato hopes that new bio-materials will result from this work and was delighted by the results. 'These molecules show thermotropic liquid crystalline phases over wide temperatures. Such behaviour could not be predicted,' he said.