Issue 56, 2020

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.

Graphical abstract: Decoding glycans: deciphering the sugary secrets to be coherent on the implication

Article information

Article type
Review Article
19 May 2020
23 Aug 2020
First published
15 Sep 2020
This article is Open Access
Creative Commons BY license

RSC Adv., 2020,10, 34099-34113

Decoding glycans: deciphering the sugary secrets to be coherent on the implication

S. Sharma, S. Shekhar, B. Sharma and P. Jain, RSC Adv., 2020, 10, 34099 DOI: 10.1039/D0RA04471G

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