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Heberle Lab’s Latest Achievements

Research in the Heberle Lab is aimed at elucidating the structure and function of biological membranes, with a focus on the plasma membrane.

Fred A. Heberle is coauthor of the recently published book Characterization of Biological Membranes. This book explores the high importance  of membranes in the fields of biology, pharmaceutical chemistry and medicine, since much of what happens in a cell or in a virus involves biological membranes. This book is an excellent introduction to the area, which explains how modern analytical methods can be applied to study biological membranes and membrane proteins and the bioprocesses they are involved to.

Heberle was also awarded $1.7M from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for The Research Project (R01). The R01 is the original and historically oldest grant mechanism used by NIH. The R01 provides support for health-related research and development based on the mission of the NIH. The Heberle Lab aims to extend membrane studies through an unprecedented integration of lipidomics, biophysical experiments, cryogenic transmission electron microscopy (cryoEM), and advanced molecular simulations, to test their central hypothesis that compositionally asymmetric membranes have unique biophysical properties resulting from robust coupling between lateral and transverse membrane organization. 

The Heberle Lab had a journal cover on Nanoscale for their work on “Transverse lipid organization dictates bending fluctuations in model plasma membranes.” 

The Heberle Lab published their research Direct label-free imaging of nanodomains in biomimetic and biological membranes by cryogenic electron microscopy” in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA. They worked with a collaborative team to capture the first direct images of tiny cell membrane domains known as lipid rafts. The images were published as a journal cover in PNAS. 

PNAS also published the Heberle Lab’s collaborative research “How cholesterol stiffens unsaturated lipid membranes.”  Their observations that cholesterol causes local stiffening in DOPC membranes indicate that a reassessment of existing concepts is necessary. These findings have far-reaching implications in understanding cholesterol’s role in biology and its applications in bioengineering and drug design.