Our bodies contain a wide variety of sugars, known as carbohydrates, that are critical for proper functioning of our cells. For example, carbohydrates located on the surfaces of cells allow them to recognize and interact with each other. These carbohydrates also help our bodies identify whether the cells are healthy or diseased, and accordingly determine how the immune system should process these cells. Many drugs target our bodies’ proteins to treat disease, but carbohydrates represent a unique and large class of druggable targets that could be used to develop new treatments. Carbohydrates have very complex structures, making it difficult for biomedical researchers to study them. This has largely prevented the use of carbohydrates as drug-targets for the treatment of human diseases.
The Glycoscience Program is developing new methods for studying carbohydrates in the body by creating tools to build large amounts of carbohydrates, determine the structure of carbohydrates, and study their function in the body. The tools developed through the Glycoscience Program are intended to make the study of carbohydrates and their functions easier and more accessible for the broader biomedical research community. These new tools should allow researchers to identify and target carbohydrates for the treatment of human diseases.