Researchers Work to Illuminate Essential Role of Carbohydrates in Human Health and Disease

Dr. Laura Kiessling

In the narrowest sense, glycobiology is the study of the structure, biology, and evolution of glycans, the carbohydrates and sugar-coated molecules found in every living organism. As a recent symposium at MIT made clear, the field is in the midst of a renaissance that could reshape scientists' understanding of the building blocks of life. Originally coined in the 1980s to describe the merging of traditional research in carbohydrate chemistry and biochemistry, glycobiology has come to encompass a much broader and multidisciplinary set of ideas. “Glycoscience” may actually be a more appropriate name for the rapidly growing field, reflecting its broad application not just to biology and chemistry but also to bioengineering, medicine, materials science, and more. “It’s becoming increasingly clear that these glycans have a very important role to play in health and disease,” says Laura Kiessling, PhD, the Novartis Professor of Chemistry at MIT. “It may seem daunting initially, but devising new tools and identifying new kinds of interactions requires exactly the sort of creative problem-solving skills that people have at MIT.”

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