BUFFALO, N.Y. -- An innovative systems biology approach to understanding the carbohydrate structures in cells is leading to new ways to understand how inflammatory illnesses and cardiovascular disease develop in humans. The work was described in two recent publications by University at Buffalo chemical engineers.
Supported by research grants from the National Institutes of Health, the ultimate goal of the project is to define novel strategies to perturb the glycome -- the complete set of an organism's carbohydrate structures in cells -- in ways that lead to the identification of new targets and molecular therapies to combat a broad range of inflammatory diseases.
The binding of white blood cells to blood vessels is a key step in the progression of inflammatory diseases, explained Sriram Neelamegham, Ph.D., UB professor of chemical and biological engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and co-author of both papers. He also is an investigator with UB's New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences.
"Our goal is to find ways to alter carbohydrate structures or glycans on the surfaces of white blood cells," he said.
But in order to do that, researchers need a far more detailed picture of these structures and the highly complex interactions between glycans, enzymes, genes and proteins, all of which can influence the development of inflammatory disease.
To do this research, Neelamegham's lab uses systems biology, a mathematical and experimental approach that focuses on whole systems of complex biological functions and interactions instead of studying individual units, such as a single gene or protein, in isolation.
"Systems biology is well-suited to this research because it helps us develop the mathematical concepts to enable us to influence and enhance our understanding of how the glycome functions," said Neelamegham. "This then produces clues on how we might manipu
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