Membranes and Cellular Communication

Academic year
Subject Area
Biomedical Sciences
Language of Instruction
Mode of Delivery
ECTS Credits
2nd Cycle Studies - Mestrado

Recommended Prerequisites


Teaching Methods

Classes are held for the presentation and discussion of the topics listed in the syllabus. In these classes the students will also perform computer simulations, discuss problems, analyse and interpret scientific papers, prepare experimental protocols and plan / conduct laboratory experiments.

Learning Outcomes

This course focuses on: (i) the study of the structure and dynamics of natural and artificial biological membranes, (ii) the study of the role of cell membranes in important physiological processes involved in the inter-and intra-cellular communication, highlighting the transport of molecules and ions, the generation of bioelectric signals, intracellular signaling, and cellular energy production. All topics are approached using examples and applications in biomedicine and biomedical engineering. It has as main objective the acquisition of knowledge and instrumental skills for a critical interpretation of physio-pathological phenomena in biomedicine.
The students' skills on group work, reading, advanced literature research, experimentation and use of information and communication technologies will also be developed.

Work Placement(s)



Biological membranes. Structure and function. Mechanical properties and their modulation. Flow of membranes in cells. Therapeutic targets. Intercellular junctions and tissue engineering.
Artificial membranes and their applications. The flat membranes and liposomes as membrane models.
Liposomes as nano-systems for drug delivery.
Transport across membranes. Simple diffusion of lipo-soluble molecules. Facilitated diffusion and active transport of water, ions and polar nutrients. Traffic of macromolecules.
Ion channels and bioelectrical signals. Patterns of electrical activity and extracellular recording of electrical potential. Patch-clamp and molecular biology techniques in the definition of channelopathies. Biophysical technologies in drug screening.
Signal transduction. Membrane receptors, G proteins, second messengers and signal amplification steps.
Signalling modules. Intracellular energy transduction. Mitochondrial bioenergetics.

Assessment Methods

Continuous evaluation
Continuous evaluation: 100.0%


Principles of Biomedical Engineering. S.V. Madihally, Artech House, 2010.

Life- As a Matter of Fat. The Emerging Principles of Lipidomics. O. Mouritsen, Springer, 2004.

Lipossomes: Methods and Protocols, vol.2, Biological Membrane Models. V. Weissig, Ed., Humana Press, 2009.

Signal Transduction. B.D. Gomperts, I.M. Kramer & P.E.R. Tatham, Academic Press, 2009.

Bioenergetics. D.G. Nicholls & S.J. Ferguson, Academic Press, 2002.

Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry. A. Lehninger, D.L. Nelson & M.M. Cox, W.H. Freeman, 2008.

Ion Channels of Excitable Membranes. B. Hille, Sinauer Associates, 2001.