Scientists shed new light on the ‘dark matter’ of cell biology

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NEW YORK, BRONX (ORDO News) — Researchers from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Montreal have made a groundbreaking discovery in the field of biomolecules. Professor Sami Sesioni and his students have developed an innovative fluorogenic probe that allows the analysis of interactions between sugars and proteins.

This development has the potential to revolutionize various fields of biology and medicine.

Sugars, also known as simple carbohydrates, aren’t just found in desserts. They play a vital role in biological processes in all living organisms. These molecules are present in virtually all the foods we consume and are essential for maintaining health and preventing disease.

“All the cells that make up living organisms are covered with a layer of sugar-based molecules known as glycans,” explains Sesioni. “Sugars are at the forefront of almost all physiological processes and play a fundamental role in maintaining health and preventing disease.”

For a long time, scientists believed that complex sugars found on the surface of cells were purely decorative. However, recent research has shown that these sugars interact with lectins, a family of proteins found in all living organisms.

Lectins have the unique ability to recognize and temporarily attach to sugars. These interactions are involved in various biological processes, including immune responses caused by infections. Researchers have discovered that the phenomenon of lectins binding to sugars is critical to the development of numerous diseases.

“The more we study the interactions between sugars and lectins, the more we understand how important they are in disease development,” Ceccioni said. “Research has shown that such interactions are involved in bacteria colonizing the lungs, viruses invading our cells, and even cancer cells tricking our immune system into thinking they are healthy cells.”

However, studying these interactions has been difficult due to their transient and weak nature. Discovering these interactions has proven to be a major hurdle for scientists.

To overcome this problem, two of Sesioni’s students, Cecile Bush and Brandon Vreulz, proposed using light to detect these interactions. Researchers have developed a chemical probe that can “freeze” the meeting between sugar and lectin, making it visible using fluorescence.

The interaction between sugar and lectin can be described as a “lock and key”, with sugar acting as the “key” and lectin as the “lock”. By creating molecules that can block this interaction, chemists can now identify the specific sugars that bind to lectins that are of great interest to human health.

This breakthrough in the study of sugar-protein interactions opens up new opportunities for understanding disease mechanisms and developing targeted treatments.

The ability to visualize and analyze these interactions will provide valuable insights into various biological processes and potentially lead to the development of new treatments for diseases such as cancer and viral infections.


News agencies contributed to this report, edited and published by ORDO News editors.

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