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Researchers synthesize asymmetrical glycans

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Posted August 9, 2013
Geert-Jan Boons.

Geert-Jan Boons.

A team of investigators from the University of Georgia recently demonstrated the first method for synthesizing asymmetrical N-glycans. According to the study, published in the journal Science on July 25, the approach could lead to a better understanding of how viruses and bacteria enter cells and development of therapies to fight them.

“Eventually, if we know better which glycans are present on the cell surface of healthy and disease cells, we can develop better therapies to fight cancer, influenza and many other diseases,” said Geert-Jan Boons, UGA Distinguished Professor in Biochemical Sciences and the study’s lead author.

Glycans are complex structures that accompany every living cell and are an essential but difficult to understand class of biopolymer. All cells are decorated with glycans, which range from those that help with cell development and immune responses to the ones involved in cancer metastasis.

Glycan sequences determine biological properties of may proteins. They are sugar molecules that form simple chains or complex branching structures and are connected to nearly every protein on the surface of all living cells. Many pathogens get into cells by binding to the glycans on the cell surface-using them like a hook for cell entry and infection.

“Glycans attached to the proteins found on cell surfaces mediate numerous biological process, but determining the specific function of individual glycans has been difficult because the bulk of these sugar chains are asymmetrical, making them difficult to synthesize in the lab,” said Pamela Marino of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences, which partially funded the research.

Read more at: Phys.org

 

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