Lipid nanodomains in cell membranes are believed to play a significant role in replication of enveloped viruses such as bird flu and HIV and signaling mechanisms underlying pathological conditions such as cancer. However, the forces that govern the formation and availability of these “membrane rafts” are uncertain, and even their existence is questioned. The central challenge is that no suitable imaging modalities exist (Elson, et al., 2010). We are developing tools to characterize and visualize dynamics of lipid nanodomains on idealized systems called giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) using fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) (Figure 1).

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