Cells use sugars to communicate at the molecular level -- ScienceDaily
Using engineered synthetic cells as a model system, lead author Cesar Rodriguez-Emmenegger, a former member of Percec's group, now at Aachen, discovered a way to directly study cell membranes using a method called atomic force microscopy. This approach generates extremely high-resolution scans that reveal shapes and structures at a scale of less than a nanometer, nearly 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. Percec's group then built a model that computes how the structural images relate to the cell's function.
The study is the first example of a diffraction-like method that can be done on whole synthetic cells. Using this new method, Percec's group discovered that a lower concentration of sugars on a cell membrane's surface led to increased reactivity with proteins on the membranes of other cells.