A scientist at the University of Helsinki developed a new method for determining the transition temperature for phospholipids
Susanne Wiedmer’s research group tested a new method that will be able to determine phase transition temperatures. The method is based on an optical sensing technology.

Phospholipids are double chained fatty acids. The cell membranes around human cells, for example, mostly consist of phospholipids.

In their natural environment, such as the 37-degree Centigrade human body, phospholipids are in a very mobile, so called fluid, state. However, if the temperature goes under a certain point, their mobility is stunted and they become more gel-like.

- When the lipids become gel-like, the cell membrane also changes. It becomes more water-resistant, semipermeable, says Susanne Wiedmer.

The temperature where the state of phospholipids changes is called the phase transition temperature. Different phospholipids have different transition temperatures.

Determining the temperature that causes the transition is significant for the medical industry, for example, because phospholipids are used in many medicines.

- It’s important to know at which temperature the lipids’ physical state changes because that will change the permeation of drugs, which is of importance considering e.g. a medical capsule. However, of interest is also to look for lipid systems with a high enough transition temperature that the medicine can be stored at room temperature, Wiedmer says.

Wiedmer’s research group tested a new method that will be able to determine phase transition temperatures. The method is based on an optical sensing technology.

Compared to the commonly used determination method for transition temperatures, the new method is fast and versatile. It can be used to study phospholipids that have not been possible to study with existing methodologies.

Determination of the Main Phase Transition Temperature of Phospholipids by Nanoplasmonic Sensing, Wen Chen, Filip Duša, Joanna Witos, Suvi-Katriina Ruokonen & Susanne K. Wiedmer. Scientific Reportsvolume 8, Article number: 14815 (2018) https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-33107-5

More information:

University lecturer Susanne Wiedmer
Email: susanne.wiedmer@helsinki.fi
Phone: +358 50 4160291
ORCID: 0000-0002-3097-6165
(Finnish, Swedish, English)

Science communicator Riitta-Leena Inki
Email: riitta-leena.inki@helsinki.fi
Phone: +358 50 448 5770
Twitter: @inkiriitta