Lipid crystallization: from self-assembly to hierarchical and biological ordering
Lipid crystallization is ubiquitous in nature, observed in biological structures as well as in commercial products and applications. In a dehydrated state most of the lipids form well ordered crystals, whereas in an aqueous environment they self-assemble into various crystalline, liquid crystalline or sometimes macroscopically disordered phases. Lipid self-organization extends further to hierarchical levels including structured emulsions and nanostructured particles. Many consumer products including cosmetics, foods and medicines account for such lipid architectures. Cell membranes primarily consist of planar lipid bilayers; however sub-cellular biomembranes are more of a convoluted type. Some of the biological entities have lipids in truly crystalline form; yet liquid crystalline lipid phases are prevalent, in general. Crystallization of fats – triglyceride lipids – has been relatively well documented and reviewed more often, but this review features other areas where lipid organization is crucial and diverse. Some recent advances along with a few explicit examples of model lipid phases and biological evidences are also reported.