BBSRC-funded researchers at the University of Manchester's Institute of Biotechnology have used the power of off-the-shelf computer gaming technology to capture previously unobservable atomic movements. The research is helping to chart one of nature's most complex entities known as "glycomes" - the entire complement of carbohydrates within a cell.
This novel solution provides a new understanding of these vital biomolecules which play a role in everything from neuronal development, inflammation and cell structure, to disease pathology and blood clotting.
Understanding the shapes of major biological molecules has revolutionised areas like drug development and medical diagnostics, but the shape of complex carbohydrates has been largely ignored.
The research, reported in a series of six peer-reviewed scientific publications (see notes) with the most recent (published today) appearing in Carbohydrate Research, provides a new view of these biochemical barcodes and present new opportunities in the science of carbohydrates, such as designing drugs or biomaterials that mimic carbohydrate shape and interpreting burgeoning functional glycomics data.
Dr Ben Sattelle from the Faculty of Life Sciences said: "Carbohydrate activity stems from 3D-shape, but the link between carbohydrate sequence and function remains unclear. Sequence-function relationships are rapidly being deciphered and it is now essential to be able to interpret these data in terms of molecular 3D-structure, as has been the case for proteins and the DNA double-helix.
"By using technology designed for computer games, we have been able to investigate the previously unseen movements of carbohydrates at an atomic scale and over longer timescales than before. The insights relate carbohydrate sequence to molecular shape and provide information that will be vital for many industries.
"Carbohydrates remain extremely difficult to characterise in 3D using ex
|Contact: Rob Dawson|
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council