The Part and the Whole. The principle of self-organization for the creation of functional units is not an invention of modern natural sciences. It was already a basic idea of the ancient philosophies in Asia and Europe: only the mutuality of the parts creates the whole and its ability to function. Translated into the language of chemistry this means: the self-organization of molecules leads to supramolecular systems and is responsible for their functions. Thermotropic and lyotropic liquid crystals are such functional units, formed by self-organization. As highly oriented systems, they exhibit new properties. The importance of lyotropic liquid crystals for the life sciences has been known for a long time. They are a prerequisite for the development of life and the ability of cells to function. In materials sciences this concept of function through organization led to the development of new liquid-crystalline materials. From the point of view of macromolecular chemistry, this review tries to combine these two different fields and especially hopes to stimulate their interaction and joint treatment. To exemplify this, the molecular architecture of polymeric organized systems will be discussed. Polymeric liquid crystals combine the ability to undergo spontaneous self-organization–typical of liquid-crystalline phases–with the polymer-specific property of stabilizing these ordered states. As new materials, polymeric liquid crystals have already been investigated intensively. As model systems for biomembranes as well as for the simulation of biomembrane processes, they so far have been little discussed. The intention of this review article is to show that polymer science is able to contribute to the simulation of cellular processes such as the stabilization of biomembranes, specific surface recognition, or even the “uncorking” of cells. Polymer science, having an old tradition as an inter-disciplinary field, can no longer restrict itself to common plastics. Attempts to reach new horizons have already begun. The borderland between liquid crystals and cells will certainly play an important role. Basic requirements to work in this frontier area between organic chemistry, membrane biology, life science, and materials science will be the delight in scientific adventures as well as the courage to go ahead. The most important prerequisite will be the willingness to cooperate with disciplines which so far have not really accepted each other. From this point of view, this review does not aim at giving defined answers. It wants instead to encourage the scientific venture: too often we cling to painfully acquired knowledge, fearing adventures.
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