Membranes are unique biological nanostructures that self assemble and have a fluidity of structure that allows very intricate functions. The complexity of membranes is great as they are composed of many different lipids, proteins and carbohydrates that stabilize membrane structure. Because of the size, complexity and fluid nature of membranes, many aspects of their structure and function are poorly understood. Recent advances in nanoscience have created the ability to analyze and manipulate biological structures at nanometer scales. Because of this, the application of nanoscale analytical, computational and synthetic approaches to
understanding and manipulating complex biological systems offers incredible potential for scientific advances. It is our belief that nanoscience tools have the ability to better define, image, model and characterize membranes that will provide an improved understanding of these structures. Probing the function of membranes with nanomaterials will lead to the better delivery of drugs and other agents to cells for therapeutic applications, and help to understand membrane-disrupting agents. In this proposal, we will use a multidisciplinary team approach to produce a Concept Development Plan (CDP) outlining issues related to nanoscience applications for the study of membranes and membrane transport. The rate-limiting step in this process is facilitating the productive interaction of diverse scientific disciplines including chemists, physicists, engineers, physicians and membrane biologists. To accomplish this type of interaction, we formed the Center for Biologic Nanotechnology (www.nano.med.umich.edu) in
1998. This has led to the creation a core group of individuals with diverse scientific capabilities that have an extensive history of productive collaboration. We believe that during the concept development award we can use a similar approach, with an even broader range of scientists, to develop topics on nanoscience and membrane biology that need to be addressed and nanoscience approaches to these topics. The application of nanoscience to membrane structure and transport will yield unique scientific discovery and help to improve medical care.