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Medical Why is glycomics so neglected?

  1. Nov 21, 2011 #1
    there is a huge push for genomics and proteomics these days, but how come you almost never hear anything about glycomics? The genome relies solely on 4 base pairs for diversity and proteins 20 amino acids, however, glycobiology rests on 32 known analogs of sugars! Not only that, sugars are not attached to each other linearly, they form very complex branching patterns on the surface of cells that control everything from cell-cell communication to adherence and stem cell differentiation. What is needed to advance this field further? The genome, I feel, is NOT the be all and end all, in fact, glycobiology could play just as much of an important role with regards to how cells behave, if not more. What is taking so long for researchers to flock to this field?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 22, 2011 #2

    Ygggdrasil

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    We don't have to tools yet to adequately address many of the open questions in glycobiology. As you mentioned, the linkages between sugars in complex oligosaccharides are much more complex than the linkages found in other biological polymers such as proteins or nucleic acids. There are currently no easy ways of finding out the sequences of the oligosaccharides, and it is even difficult to synthetically produce oligosacharides with the correct linkages for biochemical studies. Furthermore, glycosylated proteins and lipids are though to have very heterogeneous glycosylation patterns, so it's not even clear how the cells are recognizing and using glycosylation as a tool to influence cell signalling and other cellular processes.

    I agree that there are many very interesting unsolved questions in this field, but it is also a field faced with a number of very difficult problems. Biologists and chemists are trying very hard to develop a set of robust and reliable tools to study glycans in the same high-throughput manner as nucleic acids and proteins are studied, but progress remains slow. However, as we learn more about the fundamental mechanisms controlling the biosynthesis of glycans and what aspects of the glycans' structures are important for their biological activities, and as we develop better tools to characterize and synthesize glycans, this field does have the potential to profoundly impact many areas of biology.
     
  4. Nov 27, 2011 #3
    Just what we need, another -omics.
     
  5. Nov 27, 2011 #4

    Ryan_m_b

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    I don't have a problem with the continuing classification/categorization of biology along these lines. It highlights how at its fundamental biology is a product of a myriad of different interconnected systems. By breaking it down into fundamentals (genetics, transcription factors, proteins, sugars, metabolites etc) we can study how these fundamentals both individually, working out all the roles, characteristics etc and holistically.
     
  6. Nov 27, 2011 #5

    atyy

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    I'm waiting for the advent of glyco-lipidomics;) Or should that be lipoglycomics?
     
  7. Nov 27, 2011 #6
    I do have a problem with the pedantic and pompous segmentation of science. It serves little purpose other than ego inflation.

    Perhaps we should now explore Physicsforums-omics.

    But I prefer beer-omics, that is unless theres also good scotch for singlemalt-omics then I like a shotandabeer-omics..
     
  8. Nov 27, 2011 #7

    Ryan_m_b

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    When any new field of science emerges naturally it is going to develop an umbrella term for what it is going to deal with. "-Omics" means totality, so if you are going to study proteins as a field unto itself why not call that field "proteomics"? I disagree completely with your assertion that the recent trend in categorising topics that previously fell only under the field of biochemistry is a product of pomp and ego inflation. You opinion seems merely seeped in your own sense of aesthetics rather than any logical thought process.
     
  9. Nov 27, 2011 #8

    atyy

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    If you can't beat them ...

    You know, the old battle was lost too - biochemistry vs molecular biology.
     
  10. Nov 27, 2011 #9
    I don't think the names of fields are there for some ego inflating segmentation. They are there to group different approaches. For example, molecular biology looks at the molecular mechanisms involved in biology. Biochemistry seeks to explain aspects of biology using the framework of chemistry. Biophysics applies the methods of physics to explain some processes in biology. Obviously there is a lot of overlap, but they all have fundamentally different approaches and that is why they are named differently.
     
  11. Nov 28, 2011 #10

    bobze

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    Like button.

    I'm not really sure how would arrive at the conclusion that the naming of scientific fields is only for "pomp and ego"......
     
  12. Nov 28, 2011 #11

    Ryan_m_b

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    Methinks this has something to do with it;
     
  13. Nov 29, 2011 #12

    Andy Resnick

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    I know two people who research glycomics; one in the context of cystic fibrosis and the other in the context of immunology. Plus there are several institutes devoted to glycomics:

    http://www.functionalglycomics.org/
    http://www.glycomics.org/
    http://ncgg.indiana.edu/

    As in any field of science, people go where the money is. As the funding agencies transition to new lines of inquiry, proposals follow: lipidomics:

    http://www.k-state.edu/lipid/lipidomics/
    http://www.lipidomics.net/

    Immunomics:
    http://www.iimms.org/ [Broken]

    Biomics (which seems to want to include all the -omics)
    http://www.biomics.se/ [Broken]

    and Microbiomics, which generally focuses on the gut and skin flora:
    https://commonfund.nih.gov/hmp/
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
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