Glycobiology is very complex science - the study the structures, biosynthesis and biology of the sugar chains, or glycans, that are essential components in all living things. Glycans have been the focus of much attention by UGA researchers recently, and now glycobiology is at the center of big new NIH grant to another team of Franklin College researchers:
Researchers at the University of Georgia have received a five-year, $10.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to support the National Center for Biomedical Glycomics, a consortium of UGA faculty and staff working to develop new technologies for the analysis of glycans.
Glycans are sugar molecules that coat the surface of every living cell. Once thought to be relatively unimportant, scientists now recognize that glycans play critical roles in cell regulation, human health and disease progression.
"This is a big piece of the human disease pie that science is only beginning to explore," said Michael Pierce, NCBG principal investigator and member of UGA's Complex Carbohydrate Research Center. "The tide is starting to turn, and researchers are beginning to appreciate how important these sugar molecules are, so our glycomics center exists to develop the technologies and tools to investigate these critical structures."
Our understanding of basic science and its impact on human health continues to grow, and we are indebted to the teams of UGA researchers and the university, which has made interdisciplinary research a reality by developing the facilities for it to thrive. And again, the federal funding mechanisms play such an important role in this work, incentiving work in basic science research that can potentially benefit the widest population, work that itself might be left on the table for generations in a private-sector R & D environment. This process of discovery itself is a complex system, but this consortium is a terrific signal that it is working.
Image: Glycocalix bei Bacillus Anthracis, courtesy of the National Institutes of Health, via Wikimedia Commons.