Lamellar Biogels: Fluid-Membrane-Based Hydrogels Containing Polymer Lipids

Science  16 Feb 1996:
Vol. 271, Issue 5251, pp. 969-973
DOI: 10.1126/science.271.5251.969


A class of lamellar biological hydrogels comprised of fluid membranes of lipids and surfactants with small amounts of low molecular weight poly(ethylene glycol)-derived polymer lipids (PEG-lipids) were studied by x-ray diffraction, polarized light microscopy, and rheometry. In contrast to isotropic hydrogels of polymer networks, these membrane-based birefringent liquid crystalline biogels, labeled Lα,g, form the gel phase when water is added to the liquid-like lamellar Lα phase, which reenters a liquid-like mixed phase upon further dilution. Furthermore, gels with larger water content require less PEG-lipid to remain stable. Although concentrated (∼50 weight percent) mixtures of free PEG (molecular weight, 5000) and water do not gel, gelation does occur in mixtures containing as little as 0.5 weight percent PEG-lipid. A defining signature of the Lα,g regime as it sets in from the fluid lamellar Lα phase is the proliferation of layer-dislocation-type defects, which are stabilized by the segregation of PEG-lipids to the defect regions of high membrane curvature that connect the membranes.