Cells are considered the fundamental units of life, each surrounded by a fluid membrane. These membranes not only protect the cells but also display captivating patterns on their surfaces, which can be involved in the communication between different cells or between a cell and its environment. The question of the origin of such patterns and the underlying physical principles that govern their formation is considerably challenging. In a recent study published in Physical review E, Nirvana Caballero, Prof. Thierry Giamarchi (DQMP) and Prof. Karsten Kruse (DPT and Biochemistry department) have presented a theory that allows to make progress in the understanding of this phenomenon.
Their analysis of matter exchange between the cell membrane and its surroundings revealed the spontaneous emergence of complex composition patterns on the membrane’s surface. These patterns are influenced by the rates at which matter exchanges occur. Intriguingly, they demonstrated that these patterns can exhibit a characteristic length scale, wherein the memory of the membrane’s previous states plays a significant role, unveiling an unprecedented aspect of membrane dynamics. These findings not only provide a physical explanation for the internal structure of cellular membranes but also unlock the possibility to understand processes of absorption of living cells.