What are Lipids?

Lipids are a broad class of molecules that are important components of cell membranes and play key roles in a variety of biological processes. Lipid derivatives are modified forms of lipids that have been chemically altered to enhance their properties and functionality for specific applications. In the chemical industry, lipids have a variety of applications, including as surfactants, emulsifiers, lubricants, and solvents. Lipids play a key role in drug delivery systems and formulations. Lipid-based drug delivery systems are used to improve the solubility, stability, and bioavailability of poorly soluble drugs. Lipid derivatives, such as liposomes, solid lipid nanoparticles, and nanoemulsions, are often used as carriers to deliver drugs to specific target sites in the body.

Lipid Definition

Lipids are a class of organic compounds that are insoluble in water but soluble in organic solvents such as alcohol or chloroform. Lipids have a high energy content and are made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. Steroids, phospholipids, oils and waxes are some examples of lipids. They provide several crucial functions in living things, including supplying energy, functioning as insulators and protectors, constructing cell membranes, and serving as signaling molecules. Furthermore, lipids also have a variety of uses in the creation of pharmaceuticals, including lipid-based diagnostics, formulation development, drug delivery methods, and lipid-lowering medications. Lipids are useful components in the creation of secure and efficient medications due to their special features.

Lipid molecule structureFig. 1. Lipid molecule structure.

Lipid Monomer

Lipid monomers include glycerol and fatty acids. Glycerol is a simple sugar alcohol with three hydroxyl groups that serves as an attachment point for fatty acids during lipid formation. Fatty acids are long hydrocarbon chains with a carboxyl group at one end. The hydrophobic nature of fatty acids makes them insoluble in water, while the hydrophilic glycerol molecules allow lipids to form stable structures in aqueous environments. When glycerol and fatty acids are combined, they can form triglycerides. Triglycerides are composed of one glycerol molecule and three fatty acid molecules linked together by ester bonds. In addition to triglycerides, lipids can also form phospholipids and sterols. Phospholipids are composed of a glycerol molecule, two fatty acids, a phosphate group, and a polar head group. Sterols, including cholesterol, are rigid ring structures that provide stability to cell membranes and serve as precursors for the synthesis of steroid hormones.

Lipid Polymer

Lipid polymers are formed from multiple units of lipid monomers and can be synthesized by a variety of methods, including ring-opening polymerization, condensation polymerization, and emulsion polymerization. The structure and properties of lipid polymers can be customized by adjusting the type, proportion, and arrangement of chemical bonds of lipid monomers used in the polymerization process, mainly including solid fats, liquid fats, phospholipids, and steroids. In addition, the introduction of functional groups such as hydroxyl, carboxyl, or amino groups can further modify the properties of lipid polymers to suit specific applications. Currently, lipid polymers represent a promising class of biomaterials with a wide range of potential applications in medicine and biotechnology. Their biocompatibility, tunable properties, and ability to self-assemble into nanostructures make them attractive materials in drug delivery, tissue engineering, and regenerative medicine.

Lipid Elements

Lipids are mainly composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms. They are hydrophobic or nonpolar molecules, which means they are not easily soluble in water. Lipids consist of long hydrocarbon chains, are nonpolar and repel water. They can be divided into different groups, including fats, phospholipids, and steroids. Fats and oils are composed of glycerol and fatty acids. Fatty acids are attached to glycerol molecules through ester bonds. Phospholipids have a glycerol molecule attached to two fatty acid and phosphate groups. The phosphate group makes one end of the molecule polar, while the fatty acid chain is non-polar. Steroids have a four-ring structure and include molecules such as cholesterol and hormones such as estrogen and testosterone.

Lipid Bilayer

The lipid bilayer is an important component of the cell membrane, serving as a barrier that separates the interior of the cell from its external environment. The lipid bilayer is composed of phospholipids, cholesterol, and proteins and forms a barrier that separates the interior of the cell from its external environment. Each phospholipid molecule consists of a hydrophilic (water-loving) head and two hydrophobic (water-repellent) tails. In a lipid bilayer, the hydrophilic heads face outward toward the aqueous environment, while the hydrophobic tails face inward, forming a hydrophobic core that prevents the passage of water-soluble molecules. The arrangement of phospholipid molecules in a lipid bilayer gives it fluidity and flexibility, allowing cell membranes to bend and change shape as needed. Cholesterol molecules are interspersed between phospholipids, helping to stabilize the lipid bilayer and regulate its fluidity, ensuring that cell membranes maintain their structural integrity and normal function. Proteins play a variety of roles in cellular communication, transport, and signaling. Integral membrane proteins are embedded within lipid bilayers, and their hydrophobic regions interact with the hydrophobic core of the membrane. Peripheral membrane proteins attach to the surface of the lipid bilayer and interact with the hydrophilic heads of phospholipids.

Lipid membrane bilayerFig. 2. Lipid membrane bilayer.

Lipid Classification

Lipid products can be divided into several categories according to their structure and function. Some common classifications include:

Fatty Acids

Fatty acids are the building blocks of lipids and can be further classified as saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fatty acids. They are used in the production of soaps, detergents, cosmetics and as a source of energy in the body.

Triacylglycerols (Triglycerides)

Triacylglycerols are the most abundant lipids in nature and are commonly found in vegetable oils and animal fats. They are the main form of energy storage in the body and are used in the food industry in cooking oils, margarines and as an ingredient in processed foods.


Phospholipids are important components of cell membranes and consist of a glycerol backbone, two fatty acids, and a phosphate group. Phospholipids are used in drug delivery systems in the pharmaceutical industry and as emulsifiers in foods.


Steroids are lipids with a specific four-ring structure. These include cholesterol, hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, and vitamin D. Steroids have a variety of applications in medicine, including their use as anti-inflammatory agents, hormone replacement therapy, and the synthesis of vitamin D supplements.


Waxes are esters of long chain fatty acids and long chain alcohols. They are used in the production of candles, polishes, paints and as water repellents in cosmetic and personal care products.

What Does a Lipid Do?

Lipids can be used as carriers or vehicles to deliver drugs to specific target sites in the body. Lipid-based drug delivery systems, such as liposomes, micelles, and lipid nanoparticles, can encapsulate drugs and enhance their solubility, stability, and bioavailability. These lipid-based systems can also enhance drug targeting, control release and prevent degradation. Lipids can also be utilized to generate formulations for a range of pharmaceutical dosage forms, including as oral, topically applied, and parenterally administered formulations.

Application of lipid-based nanocarriers in drug deliveryFig. 3. Application of lipid-based nanocarriers in drug delivery (Nanomedicine. 2016, 11(22): 1743-5889).

Lipids can serve as excipients to improve the stability, solubility, and absorption of pharmaceuticals. For instance, lipid-based formulations can improve the oral bioavailability of medications that are poorly soluble by making them more soluble and making them easier to absorb. In order to treat lipid-related disorders including hyperlipidemia and dyslipidemia, medicines that target lipid metabolism are being developed using lipids. Blood cholesterol levels in the body can be controlled by lipid-lowering medications such statins, fibrates, bile acid sequestrants, etc., which lowers the risk of cardiovascular illnesses. In addition, the creation of imaging and diagnostic technologies also makes use of lipids. Medical imaging procedures including computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) employ lipid contrast agents, such as fat emulsions. These contrast chemicals make certain tissues or organs more visible, which aids in the detection and monitoring of certain disorders.

Lipid Products

BOC Sciences is a leading supplier of lipids and PEG lipids. For a range of scientific research applications, we are committed to offering a complete catalog of lipids, including phospholipids, glycolipids, sphingolipids and sterol derivatives. To meet the unique needs of researchers, these lipids are available in a variety of forms, including powders, solutions, and dispersions. Please get in touch with us for customer service if you have any questions about our lipid or PEG lipid products.


Phospholipids are an important component of cell membranes. They consist of a hydrophilic head group and two hydrophobic fatty acid tails. The hydrophilic head group contains a phosphate group, giving phospholipids their name. The fatty acid tail usually consists of saturated or unsaturated fatty acids. Phospholipids are amphipathic molecules, meaning they have both hydrophilic and hydrophobic regions. This unique structure allows phospholipids to form bilayers in aqueous environments, such as the lipid bilayers of cell membranes. It can be divided into two categories: natural phospholipids and synthetic phospholipids.

Cat. No.Product NameCAS No.Price
BPG-3895DSPE-glutaric acid1009838-54-3Inquiry


Cholesterol is essential for maintaining the integrity and fluidity of cell membranes. Cholesterol is a sterol, a subclass of lipids characterized by a tetracyclic structure. Cholesterol is synthesized in the liver and is found in high concentrations in cell membranes. It plays a vital role in regulating the fluidity and permeability of membranes. Cholesterol molecules are interspersed between the phospholipids in the lipid bilayer and help regulate the packing of phospholipid molecules. Cholesterol is also a precursor to the synthesis of steroid hormones, bile acids, and vitamin D.

Cat. No.Product NameCAS No.Price
BPG-3626Cholesteryl chloroformate7144-08-3Inquiry


Sterols are a class of lipids with a tetracyclic structure similar to cholesterol. Sterols are found in a variety of organisms, including plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria. In addition to cholesterol, other sterols are present in cell membranes, such as sitosterol and stigmasterol. Similar to cholesterol, sterols play a role in regulating membrane fluidity and permeability. In plants, sterols are essential for the structural integrity of cell membranes and are involved in various physiological processes. In humans, phytosterols can help lower cholesterol levels by preventing the intestinal absorption of dietary cholesterol. Sterols are also important precursors for the synthesis of steroid hormones and bile acids.

Cat. No.Product NameCAS No.Price
BPG-3293Sodium cholesteryl sulfate2864-50-8Inquiry
BPG-32954-beta-Hydroxy Cholesterol17320-10-4Inquiry

PEG Lipid

PEG lipids are a class of lipids that contain PEG chains attached to lipid molecules. The PEG chains provide hydrophilic properties, while the lipid moiety provides lipophilic properties. PEG lipids can be used in drug delivery and gene delivery to improve the solubility, stability and bioavailability of drugs or to improve the efficiency and safety of gene therapy. They can help protect genetic material such as DNA or RNA from degradation and enhance its cellular uptake. In addition, PEG lipids can be employed to alter the surface characteristics of other materials, such as nanoparticles and microspheres. PEG chains create a hydrophilic coating that reduces immune system recognition, opsonization, and aggregation, improving biocompatibility and circulation time. PEG lipids can also be utilized to create coatings on implants or medical equipment to lessen immunological reactions, cell adhesion, and protein adsorption. This lowers the risk of infection, enhances biocompatibility, and helps avoid biofouling.

Cat. No.Product NameCAS No.Price
BPG-2992DSPE PEG(2000)-N-Cy52315262-02-1Inquiry
BPG-2993DSPE PEG(2000)-N-Cy72315262-01-0Inquiry
BPG-2994DOPE PEG(2000)-N-Cy52389048-58-0Inquiry
BPG-2997DSPE-PEG(2000) Carboxy NHS2410279-87-5Inquiry
BPG-2998DOPE-PEG-Azide ammonium salt2342575-84-0Inquiry
BPG-2999DOPE-PEG-NH2 ammonium salt2342575-85-1Inquiry

Lipid Nanoparticles

Lipid nanoparticles are a lipid-based delivery system widely used in pharmaceutical and biotechnology applications. Lipid nanoparticles are colloidal particles composed of lipids and other amphiphilic molecules. These nanoparticles can encapsulate hydrophobic drugs or genetic material, protecting them from degradation and enhancing their delivery to target cells or tissues. Lipid nanoparticles can be divided into various types, including liposomes, solid lipid nanoparticles, nanostructured lipid carriers, and lipid micelles.


  1. Costas, K. et al. Lipid-based nanocarriers for the oral administration of biopharmaceutics. Nanomedicine. 2016, 11(22): 1743-5889.

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