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A microscopic spherical membrane-enclosed vesicle or sac (20–30 nm in diameter) made artificially in the laboratory by the addition of an aqueous solution to a phospholipid gel. The membrane resembles a cell membrane and the whole vesicle is similar to a cell organelle. Liposomes can be incorporated into living cells and are used to transport relatively toxic drugs into diseased cells, where they can exert their maximum effects. For example, liposomes containing the drug methotrexate, used in the treatment of cancer, can be injected into the patient's blood. The cancerous organ is heated to a temperature higher than body temperature, so that when the liposome passes through its blood vessels, the membrane melts and the drug is released. Liposomes can also be used as vectors in the transfection of cells with foreign DNA or RNA. The study of the behaviour of liposome membranes is used in research into membrane function, particularly to observe the behaviour of membranes during anaesthesia with respect to permeability changes.

Subjects: Medicine and Health — Biological Sciences.

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