Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

ESF's workshop restores good name of sugar: Glycoscience now hotbed of medical research

17.01.2008
Sugars were once credited with magical healing powers but are now seen like salt as an evil necessary in small doses but the cause of numerous diseases such as diabetes if taken in excess. Yet latest research suggests this view ignores the vital role played by more complex sugars in many biological structures, and the great therapeutic potential they have.

This all emerged in a recent workshop organised by the European Science Foundation (ESF) on the current state of the art in glycoscience, the study of complex sugars in biology. Delegates heard how glycoscience has become one of the hotbeds of biological and medical research, intimately involved in every aspect of metabolism and immune function. The big challenge now is to coordinate research in the field, bring together the relevant specialisms, and determine where to go next, according to the ESF workshops' convenor, Tony Merry from Manchester University in the UK. "There is so much progress in the field it is a bit difficult to predict where the greatest impact will be," said Merry.

The key point is that complex sugars are involved every time cells, and smaller structures within cells, communicate or bind with each other. This means they play a major part in all processes, including immune recognition and brain functions such as memory. It also means complex carbohydrates are often implicated in diseases where these functions go wrong, including auto-immune disorders such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as some cancers. The immune response often depends on the identity and location of sugars on antigens, which are the surface molecules on pathogens such as bacteria, or in principle any cells or smaller biological components such as protein complexes, that are recognised by the body's own machinery for detecting foreign bodies. Complex sugars such as polysaccharides are core components of antigens, alongside lipids (fatty compounds) and proteins. These antigens in effect determine the outcome of an infectious disease and the response by the host organism such as human - structural differences between these antigens often account for the inability of many diseases to cross from one animal species to another and this is exemplified in the case of influenza where key molecules on the virus interacty with different complex sugars in birds and humans.

The ESF workshop identified the need to build momentum behind glycoscience, whose importance has been grossly undervalued, and in particular to boost European research. "We decided that we need to all speak with one voice through a single organisation in Europe so we have agreed to expand the UK based Glycoscience Forum, of which I am Executive Secretary, to become the Euroglycosciences Forum. We also decided this should be reflected by recruitment of members throughout Europe onto committees," said Merry. "We agreed that although we have world class expertise in many areas (and if fact are world leaders in some) we do not have the same presence and image as has been forged by our colleagues in USA and Japan."

Equally the profile of the field needs boosting not just among the public, but also within the scientific community, which has tended to downplay the importance of glycoscience partly because it seems too complicated to understand and analyse. "The chemistry of glycoscience is extremely difficult," Merry admitted. But it is possible to simplify the chemistry and define it in terms of essential active constituents and interactions, as has been done for DNA and proteins, which are built up from more straightforward components, respectively nucleic acids and amino acids. According to Merry a similar rationalisation is needed for carbohydrates to bring glycomics - the science of sugars in general - onto the same footing as genomics (genes) and proteomics (proteins).

It is vital that this task is achieved since glycomics, genomics and proteomics are all equal cogs in the overall mechanism of biology, to the extent that progress in developing therapies depends on integrating the three together rather than advancing on one front while ignoring another.

The ESF Exploratory Workshop, Glycoscience Comes Of Age, was held at Kolocep, Croatia, in May 2007. The stage was set for a coordinated but flexible European glycoscience programme mediated by a forum of members from a number of different disciplines.

Thomas Lau | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esf.org/fileadmin/be_user/ew_docs/06-146_Programme.pdf

More articles from Seminars Workshops:

nachricht Climate Fluctuations & Non-equilibrium Statistical Mechanics: An Interdisciplinary Dialog
29.06.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Physik komplexer Systeme

nachricht Blood flow under magnetic magnifier
21.06.2017 | Fraunhofer MEVIS - Institut für Bildgestützte Medizin

All articles from Seminars Workshops >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

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

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A Map of the Cell’s Power Station

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet

18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>