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Mol Membr Biol. 1998 Apr-Jun;15(2):59-68.

The modulation of membrane structure and stability by dimethyl sulphoxide (review).

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Division of Life Sciences, King's College London, UK.


Dimethyl sulphoxide is a widely used agent in cell biology. It is well known as a cryoprotectant, cell fusogen and a permeability enhancing agent. These applications depend, to a greater or lesser extent, on the effect of dimethyl sulphoxide on the stability and dynamics of biomembranes. The aim of this review is to examine progress of the research which has been directed towards studies of the interactions between dimethyl sulphoxide and membranes, particularly that with the lipid components of cell membranes, as seen in its effects on model membrane systems. Models are proposed to explain the mechanism whereby dimethyl sulphoxide may mediate its effects on biological functions by its effects on the stability and properties of the membrane lipid matrix.

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