Decoding glycans: deciphering the sugary secrets to be coherent on the implication
Neoteric techniques, skills, and methodological advances in glycobiology and glycochemistry have been instrumental in pertinent discoveries to pave way for a new era in biomedical sciences. Glycans are sugar-based polymers that coat cells and decorate majority of proteins, forming glycoproteins. They are also found deposited in extracellular spaces between cells, attached to soluble signaling molecules, and are key players in several biological processes including regulation of immune responses and cell–cell interactions. Laboratory manipulations of protein, DNA and other macromolecules celebrate the accelerated research in respective fields, but the same seems unlikely for the complex sugar polymers. The structural complex polymers are neither synthesized using a known template nor are dynamically stable with respect to a cell's metabolic rate. What is more, sugar isomers—structurally distinct molecules with the same chemical formula—can be employed to construct varied glycans, but are almost impossible to tell apart based on molecular weight alone. The apparent lack of a glycan alphabet further reflects on an enduring question: how little do we know about the sugars? Evidently, glycan-based therapeutic potentials and glycomimetics are propitious advances for the future that have not been well exploited, and with a few conspicuous anomalies. Here, we contour the most notable contributions to enhance our ability to utilize the complex glycans as therapeutics. Diagnostic strategies concerning recurrent diseases and headways to address the challenges are also discussed.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 2020 Reviews in RSC Advances