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!
Pollen taxi for bacteria
18.07.2018 | Technische Universität München
Biological signalling processes in intelligent materials
18.07.2018 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.
Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
18.07.2018 | Life Sciences
18.07.2018 | Life Sciences
18.07.2018 | Information Technology