We study a model system in which lipid bilayers are created using variable (precisely known) proportions of phosphatidylcholine and cholesterol. The model membranes exhibit cholesterol-enriched microdomains that are analogous to the socalled "lipid rafts" that form in living cells. After briefly presenting some experimental results, we formulate and solve a novel mathematical model based on the Smoluchowski equations for coagulation and fragmentation. We present a comparison between the distribution of lipid-raft areas observed in experimental lipid bilayers, and that distribution predicted by the theoretical model. Excellent agreement between the experiments and theory is obtained, with minimal parameter fitting.
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