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 Virtual Worlds: Research Trends in Mobile 3D Data Collection
30.11.2016 | Fraunhofer IPM

nachricht 4th UKP-Workshop 2017 – Save the Date!
15.09.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik ILT

All articles from Seminars Workshops >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen

24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>