New Method Enhances Biomarker Discovery with Sugar


Even our cells like eating sweet things. While carbohydrate typically is thought of as a food that gives us with energy, sugars also play a crucial role in maintaining the operation of our cells. Proteins on the exterior of cells, where they assist cells in carrying out certain activities, may be altered and combined with sugar molecules. A method known as glycosylation creates those complex sugar molecules that cover cells.

Glycosylation is similar to the attire that a cell dons. A person’s clothing surrounds them and performs a variety of functions. Anand Mehta, D.Phil.senior associate dean of Research, SmartState Endowed Chair of Proteomic Biomarkers, and professor in the Department of Cell and Molecular Pharmacology at MUSC, described what glycosylation is for a cell.

A glycans, or carbohydrates, that cover antibodies have been the subject of novel research techniques created by Mehta’s group. Their findings, which were reported in Analytical Science in June 2023, demonstrated that various immune cell types could be separated from a population of cells and examined to ascertain how each cell type was glycosylated.

Mehta said that “these sugars play a significant part in everything that occurs in a cell.” “We’ve often used extremely subpar techniques to study those sugars. We created a technique to begin measuring those sugar fluctuations.

Mehta and their team’s examine is aimed at capturing T-cells, an immune cell type that aids in defending the body against illnesses like cancer and infection. While certain T-cells may directly destroy malignant or diseased cells, others can drive inflammatory reactions and the activation of other immune cells. The glycosylation of these various cell groups could not previously be separated or studied well. Mehta and his team’s approach allows for fast subtype isolation, allowing them to compare the sugar patterns of healthy vs sick patients’ cells. Our comprehension of how the body fights against cancer may depend on these variations.

James Dressman, a Ph.D. candidate in Mehta’s lab who worked on this research, noted that glycans may be utilized as biomarkers to determine how the immune system is reacting to a particular illness.

Alterations in glycosylation are a hallmark of cancer that is not well-characterized. Patients with blood cancer will likely display alterations in their T-cell glycosylation patterns. Additionally, immune cell glycans can indicate whether these cells are active or resting.

Since the sugar coat on immune cells can alter their ability to kill diseased cells, increasing our understanding of immune cell glycosylation is extremely important. Immunotherapy cancer treatments involve modification of immune cells to make them more efficient cancer cell killers. Therefore, if scientists understand which sugars make T-cells best at killing specific types of cancer cells, more effective immunotherapies can be designed.

To perform T-cell glycan analysis, researchers add a mixture of immune cells to special microscope slides containing different regions that stick to specific types of T-cells. The sugars on the outside of these T-cells are then measured using a mass spectrometer, a complex machine that determines the mass and composition of small molecules.

This implies that it has the advantage of having the option to separate different cell groupings from complex examples comprised of an expansive scope of cell types.

It’s totally intriguing times Dressman added. It gives new points of view on a scope of issues that we might investigate.

Mehta said, “We can look where everybody has had the option to look previously.

Dressman and Mehta’s underlying series of request will zero in on how blood malignant growth patients’ safe cells’ glycosylation patterns. They will do this by involving the original methodology on safe cells in blood tests from both solid individuals and patients with blood harm. The gathering needs to track down blood biomarkers for early malignant growth finding. They are likewise trying to work on their strategy so they can catch and research different sorts of insusceptible cells.

Mehta and his partners imagine involving this strategy for symptomatic and prognostic testing in a clinical climate one day. They accept this strategy will be useful in evaluating the safe reaction to different medications or vaccinations, foreseeing therapy results, and finding more compelling immunotherapy malignant growth treatments. Mehta expects that perusers of their paper will involve this technique in their own examination.


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