Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Do 68 molecules hold the key to understanding disease?

05.09.2008
UC San Diego scientist presents first unified vision of 'the building blocks of life'

Why is it that the origins of many serious diseases remain a mystery? In considering that question, a scientist at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine has come up with a unified molecular view of the indivisible unit of life, the cell, which may provide an answer.

Reviewing findings from multiple disciplines, Jamey Marth, Ph.D., UC San Diego Professor of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, realized that only 68 molecular building blocks are used to construct these four fundamental components of cells: the nucleic acids (DNA and RNA), proteins, glycans and lipids. His work, which illustrates the primary composition of all cells, is published in the September issue of Nature Cell Biology.

Like the periodic table of elements, first published in 1869 by Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev, is to chemistry, Marth's visual metaphor offers a new framework for biologists.

This new illustration defines the basic molecular building blocks of life and currently includes 32 glycans (sugar linkages found throughout the cell) and eight kinds of lipids (which compose cell membranes) along with the more well-known 20 amino acids that are used to make proteins and the eight nucleosides that compose the nucleic acids, DNA and RNA.

"These 68 building blocks provide the structural basis for the molecular choreography that constitutes the entire life of a cell," said Marth. "And two of the four cellular components are produced by these molecular building blocks in processes that cannot be encoded by the genes. These cellular components – the glycans and lipids – may now hold the keys to uncovering the origins of many grievous diseases that continue to evade understanding."

Currently, the vast majority of medical research looks to the human genome and proteome for answers, but those answers remain elusive, and perhaps for good reason.

"We have now found instances where the pathogenesis of widespread and chronic diseases can be attributed to a change in the glycome, for example, in the absence of definable changes in the genome or proteome," Marth said, adding that, as biomedical researchers, "we need to begin to cultivate the integration of disciplines in a holistic and rigorous way in order to perceive and most effectively manipulate the biological mechanisms of health and disease."

"What is important is that no one has composed it and laid it out so clearly before," said Ajit Varki, M.D., Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Cellular and Molecular Medicine and founder and co-director of the Glycobiology Research and Training Center at UC San Diego School of Medicine, and chief editor of the major textbook in the field, The Essentials of Glycobiology. "Glycobiology, for example, is a relatively new field of study in which researchers at UC San Diego have much expertise, and Dr. Marth's work further illustrates the importance of these glycan molecules."

Marth believes that biology should become more integrative both in academic and research settings. "I'm one who believes that we don't need to sacrifice breadth of knowledge in order to acquire depth of understanding."

Debra Kain | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucsd.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Molecular microscopy illuminates molecular motor motion
26.07.2017 | Penn State

nachricht New virus discovered in migratory bird in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
26.07.2017 | Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Carbon Nanotubes Turn Electrical Current into Light-emitting Quasi-particles

Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers

Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...

Im Focus: Flexible proximity sensor creates smart surfaces

Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.

At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

CCNY physicists master unexplored electron property

26.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Molecular microscopy illuminates molecular motor motion

26.07.2017 | Life Sciences

Large-Mouthed Fish Was Top Predator After Mass Extinction

26.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>