Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards
Organisation: University of York
Dates: Jan 2007-Dec 2011
Summary: To most people, sugar is something you add to tea. My group, however, believes
sugars are the most exciting of all biological molecules. In addition to food, sugars
play key roles in the structure of organisms from the walls of plants, fungi and
bacteria, through to the shells of lobsters. Sugars are "the language of the cell"
sometimes termed the "glycocode". Different cells in the body use sugars to
communicate with other cells and sometimes the glycocode is hijacked by parasites,
bacteria and viruses to cause disease. Everybody has heard of H5N1 "bird flu" or
H1N1 "swine flu"; but few except the sugar chemist know that the letters "H" and
"N" refer to specific sugar binding (H) and sugar degrading (N) proteins and their
specificity and action are central to their actions. The HIV virus that causes AIDS
hides from your immune system by displaying the same sugar clothes that are worn
by our own cells; hijacking our own sugar synthesising apparatus for camouflage.
We are currently working on diverse aspects of the biochemistry of sugars. We have
both academic and industry related work on the enzymes that degrade plant
polysaccharides (extended chains of linked sugars). These find use in all our lives in
applications as diverse as biological washing powders & dishwasher additives through to the more
high profile emerging roles in the production of bioethanol from "biomass" such as
corn starch and waste plant matter.
We also have several projects on the medical aspects of sugar chemistry. Of
particular recent note is a project to exploit the roles of sugars on brain proteins to
treat neurodegenerations such as Alzheimer's diseases. The ‘tauopathies’ are a
group of neurodegenerative diseases that effect more than 5 million people in the USA alone.
In collaboration with a Canadian University we have developed compounds that change the subtle modifications of
the tau protein which look like they have great potential as anti Alzheimer's
Scheme: University Research Fellowship
Dates: Oct 1996-Sep 2005
Summary: This project summary is not available for publication.