Life Is Sweet
Biological Engineer Ram Sasisekharan:
Tackling Complex Carbohydrates
Ram Sasisekharan Deciphers the Code
Biological engineer Sasisekharan wants to unlock the healing power of sugars.
Biological sugars (carbohydrates)
Help heal scrapes
Hold cells together
Communicate messages throughout the body
Answer: In most life forms
Carbohydrates = Main energy source for the body
Carbs Made Simple
Types of carbohydrates:
Monosaccharide―one simple sugar molecule
Disaccharide―two simple sugar molecules linked together
Polysaccharide―long, interconnected complexes of monosaccharide or disaccharide units that repeat a pattern
Common Sugar Molecules
Disaccharide consisting of glucose and fructose chemically linked together
Complex Carbohydrates Zillions of Flavors
Building blocks of proteins
Link together in a linear fashion
Simple sugars connected in various combinations
Often have branched structure
Proteoglycans Have Many Roles
Paracellular transport, in which molecules pass between epithelial cells, appears to be gated by a "sugar code."
The code is specified by glycan molecules that coat the top, or apical, surface of these cells.
Heparin: Sugar-based Anticoagulant
Heparin and low-molecular weight heparin are drugs widely used to prevent blood clots that can lead to heart attacks and strokes
Commercial preparations of heparin can produce excessive bleeding in some patients
How might knowledge about sugar molecules gained by Sasisekharan help in the fight against cancer?