Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New Technique Enables High-Sensitivity View of Cellular Functions

05.11.2012
Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed an ultrasensitive method for detecting sugar molecules – or glycans – coming from living organisms, a breakthrough that will make possible a more detailed understanding of cellular functions than either genetic or proteomic (the study of proteins) information can provide. The researchers hope the new technique will revolutionize the study of glycans, which has been hampered by an inability to easily detect and identify minute quantities of these molecules.

“The glycome is richer in information than the genome or the proteome. A cancer cell, for example, might have the same genome as a non-cancer cell, but it produces different sugars,” said Robert Linhardt, the Ann and John H. Broadbent Jr. ’59 Senior Constellation Professor of Biocatalysis and Metabolic Engineering at Rensselaer, and an author of the study.

“Until now, the stumbling block in glycomics has been rapid and sensitive determination of the glycans present in a biological sample, and up to now we were very limited by how much we could detect. With this technique that we’ve developed, Glyco-qPCR, we can detect a very small number of molecules and that should accelerate the growth of the field.”

The new technique is discussed in a paper titled “Signal Amplification by Glyco-qPCR for Ultrasensitive Detection of Carbohydrates: Applications in Glycobiology,” which was published in the Oct. 16 online edition of Angewandte Chemie International. Linhardt and Jonathan Dordick, director of the Rensselaer Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS), vice president for research, and the Howard P. Isermann ’42 Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, were joined in the research by Seok Joon Kwon, Kyung Bok Lee, Kemal Solakyildirim, Sayaka Masuko, Mellisa Ly, Fuming Zhang, and Lingyn Li.

Linhardt used the analogy of a house to explain the importance of glycans in biology and the promise of glycomics in medicine and biotechnology: If genes are the blueprints, and proteins are the structure, than sugars—glycans—are the decoration of all living matter. Just as dozens of houses in a development—despite a shared blueprint and identical external appearance—can have a unique interior identity based on wall colors and furnishings, so can two cells share the same genome, and similar proteome, but function very differently from one another, Linhardt explained.

“You can look at a blueprint of a house and it can tell you something about the house, but it certainly can’t tell you the colors of the walls,” Linhardt said. “We’ve developed a method to start to detect what the decorations will look like, and that will give us an insight into what the house will ultimately become.”

Linhardt said the technique is likely to find applications in the study of all complex multisystem diseases, such as cancer and diabetes.

“This gives us a new tool to study fundamental biology and chemistry,” Linhardt said. “It allows us a higher resolution view into the functions of a cell than the genome or proteome. With this tool we can go inside a cell, poke around, and understand how to predict the behavior of that cell and ultimately control it.”

As the name of the new technique suggests, Glyco-qPCR is built on Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), a technique, which enabled fast and cost-effective sequencing of genetic information, fueling a rapid expansion in genetics starting in the mid-1980s.

PCR allows researchers to produce mass copies of a particular sequence of DNA, or “amplify” the sequence, turning one precious sample into a nearly limitless supply of a particular sequence. The large sample makes it possible to perform other techniques that determine the identity of the particular sequence.

Glycans, the sugar molecules present in living cells, are even smaller and more complex than DNA sequences, and therefore, even more difficult to identify, Linhardt said. Moreover, unlike DNA, they have proven resistant to “amplification.” So the Linhardt team took another approach.

The team has developed a technique for chemically attaching a specific DNA sequence to a specific sugar molecule. The team has built a catalogue of molecules that can be “tagged,” each with a specific DNA sequence.

Once tagged, the team uses PCR to amplify the DNA tags, allowing them to identify the tags – and therefore the glycans – that are present, and the proportions in which they are present, in a given sample.

“We don’t really detect the molecule, we detect the DNA that’s attached to it,” Linhardt said. “The DNA tags are cleverly designed so that they only attach to certain molecules. We can then amplify the DNA, see what kind of DNA it is, and then infer the molecule that it’s attached to.”

None of the currently used methods of glycan analysis, such as mass spectrometry or high-performance liquid chromatography, amplify the amount of sample that is present so they are much less sensitive, Linhardt said. While these current methods are capable of detecting a few billion glycan molecules, Glyco-qPCR can detect a few hundred glycan molecules.

The development of PCR in 1983 put the study of genes within reach of research labs around the world, unlocking the potential for knowledge about how genes work and treatments build on that knowledge. Linhardt hopes Glyco-qPCR will effect a similar transformation.

“Although it is an indirect method that piggy-backs on PCR, amplification technology like our Glyco-qPCR holds the same promise for glycomics research,” Linhardt said. “I believe that it is revolutionary for the fields of glycomics and glycobiology.”

Contact
Mary Martialay
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Office: (518)276-2146
Mobile: (518) 9515650
Email: martim12@rpi.edu
Follow us on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/RPInews
For more story ideas, visit the Rensselaer research and discovery blog at: http://approach.rpi.edu

Mary Martialay | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.rpi.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht How to become a T follicular helper cell
31.07.2015 | La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology

nachricht Heating and cooling with light leads to ultrafast DNA diagnostics
31.07.2015 | University of California - Berkeley

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Quantum Matter Stuck in Unrest

Using ultracold atoms trapped in light crystals, scientists from the MPQ, LMU, and the Weizmann Institute observe a novel state of matter that never thermalizes.

What happens if one mixes cold and hot water? After some initial dynamics, one is left with lukewarm water—the system has thermalized to a new thermal...

Im Focus: On the crest of the wave: Electronics on a time scale shorter than a cycle of light

Physicists from Regensburg and Marburg, Germany have succeeded in taking a slow-motion movie of speeding electrons in a solid driven by a strong light wave. In the process, they have unraveled a novel quantum phenomenon, which will be reported in the forthcoming edition of Nature.

The advent of ever faster electronics featuring clock rates up to the multiple-gigahertz range has revolutionized our day-to-day life. Researchers and...

Im Focus: Superfast fluorescence sets new speed record

Plasmonic device has speed and efficiency to serve optical computers

Researchers have developed an ultrafast light-emitting device that can flip on and off 90 billion times a second and could form the basis of optical computing.

Im Focus: Unlocking the rice immune system

Joint BioEnergy Institute study identifies bacterial protein that is key to protecting rice against bacterial blight

A bacterial signal that when recognized by rice plants enables the plants to resist a devastating blight disease has been identified by a multi-national team...

Im Focus: Smarter window materials can control light and energy

Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin are one step closer to delivering smart windows with a new level of energy efficiency, engineering materials that allow windows to reveal light without transferring heat and, conversely, to block light while allowing heat transmission, as described in two new research papers.

By allowing indoor occupants to more precisely control the energy and sunlight passing through a window, the new materials could significantly reduce costs for...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

3rd Euro Bio-inspired - International Conference and Exhibition on Bio-inspired Materials

23.07.2015 | Event News

Clash of Realities – International Conference on the Art, Technology and Theory of Digital Games

10.07.2015 | Event News

World Conference on Regenerative Medicine in Leipzig: Last chance to submit abstracts until 2 July

25.06.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

Tool making and additive technology exhibition: Fraunhofer IPT at Formnext

31.07.2015 | Trade Fair News

First Siemens-built Thameslink train arrives in London

31.07.2015 | Transportation and Logistics

California 'rain debt' equal to average full year of precipitation

31.07.2015 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>