3: Lipids and glycerol

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Our body needs fatty acids for important jobs like constructing cell membranes and producing or storing energy.  Glycerol is a small molecule that can hold up to three fatty acids, acting as a sort of backbone for a bigger molecule.


42 minutes

Template page for drawing 3

Info page for drawing 3

Finished drawing sample for lesson 3


Activity 3-1:   Disappearing glass bottle experiment

You can try this experiment, or just watch it.  Glycerol can be purchased in the pharmacy department of a well-stocked grocery store or department store such as WalMart or Target.  Glycerol is non-toxic and has a slightly sweet taste and can be used as a sweetener.  It is commonly used as an ingredient in medicines, toothpastes, mouthwashes, skin care products, hair care products, and soaps.  Some people say that adding glycerol (glycerin) to homemade bubble liquid (dish soap and water) improves the floating time of the bubbles, but I’ve never found that glycerol makes much difference.  (Just add more dish soap instead!)

Activity 3-2:   Dried flowers and glycerol

This experiment takes a number of weeks to do.  You will need some flowers, water and a bottle of glycerin.  Split the flowers into two bunches.  One bunch will be in a vase with just water for a week. days.  The other bunch will spend a week in a vase that has glycerol added to the water.  (2 parts water, to 1 part glycerin.)  At the end of the week, hang both bunches of flowers upside down in the driest place you have available (perhaps a garage?).  After several weeks, compare the two bunches.  Is one less brittle than the other?  Are the colors brighter in one bunch?  What did the glycerin do?  (If you want more information, you can do an internet search using key words “glycerin preserve flowers.”)


Activity 3-2:   Triglyceride craft idea

If you love crafts and ornaments, you can easily make a triglyceride into a colorful craft.  This idea can be scaled to any size.  You can use a large (actual) hanger, or you can use a paperclip and a pair of pliers to make a very tiny hanger.  You could even use a chenille stem, although a hanger made from this will not support heavy chains.

Make a hanger out of your choice of wires.  Then choose a craft material you like to work with to make three strings that will represent fatty acids.  You might like to use black beads to represent carbon atoms.  You could use colored paper and fold the strips back and forth to simulate the accordion shape of a fatty acid molecule. You can make the chains straight, or you can get fancy and try to simulate a chain with some omega kinks at the end.   Use whatever craft supplies you have on hand and like to work with.  Attach your three fatty acid chains to the hanger.

Hang your triglyceride craft somewhere that you will see it often.  In the future, when you read the word “triglyceride” it will no longer be a mysterious science word.  You will think of this craft and immediately remember that what a triglyceride is.




4)  QUIZ

You can re-take the quiz if you need to.

Back to: Mapping The Body With Art: Module 1: BIOCHEMISTRY and CELLS > Biochemistry of our Bodies