Courtesy of Paul Bertone, Arno Grbac, Heng Zhu, and Michael Snyder

Scientists who add detergents to their cell preps, take heed: You might be consigning the most interesting stuff to the trash bin. Not proteins, surely, or nucleic acids, but lipids. A class of molecules united by their common solubility in organic solvents, lipids are like the poor relations among wealthier biological macromolecules.

"Researchers are familiar with nucleic acids, RNA, proteins, and maybe even carbohydrates, but usually not with lipids," says Zheng Cui, a biochemist at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. "Lipids are probably the most ignored type of molecules by the entire field of biological sciences, and yet they play a key role in many of the functions of the body." For example, lipids function as both energy stores and signaling molecules, and they literally define cells, separating the intracellular from the extracellular components with an impermeable bilayer....

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