Healthy Aging through Glycobiologybio1
July 27th, 2011
Check out the YouTube video blog on each of the Therapeutic Foods, found in the Clinical Notes. We created the one to two minute educational videos to help your patients understand the products they are taking. Since we all learn differently, and the visual/auditory being easy and efficient way to learn, we hope you will utilize this function and even enjoy the presentations. And please don’t laugh at me too much, I promise I will get better with time!
Can you define the following: glycan, glycome, N-acetylglucosamine, sialic acid, mannose, glycosylation, glycoprotein, glycolipid…here’s an easy one—glucose? Read on! Today you will learn how your immune cells look and how your blood is typed. Sugars are a fascinating lot!
Yes, they are all part of and related to the carbohydrate family of macromolecules, not so commonly discussed, certainly not in college level nutritional textbooks. But today we are going to dive right into the field of Glycobiology.
Thus far in our discussion over the past month, relative to carbohydrates, we have focused on the traditional topics of digestible and nondigestible carbs (the sugars and fibers), and divided fibers into two catagories—soluble and insoluble fibers. This week we will go further into the science of carbohydrates and take a look at the field of Glycobiology—the study of glycans within the human body.
Glyco is the Greek word for sugar. There are nine essential sugars (monosaccharides) that the body needs for functional health: glucose, galactose, mannose, fucose, xylose, sialic acid, N-acetylglucosamine, N-acetyl galactosamine and glucouronic acid.
Even though glucose can be used by our cells to make all of these essential monosaccharides, the synthesis requires extra expenditure of energy and therefore it is important to consume in our diet as many of these sugars as possible. Once absorbed into the cell, these simple sugars are routed to the golgi body and endoplasmic reticulum where they are assembled together to become oligo and polysaccharide chains with a multitude of arrangements, from linear to highly branched. These chains are called glycans.
The glycans are then routed outside the cell to the external surface of the cell’s membrane where, through the glycosylation process, they are attached to either a membrane bound protein or a membrane lipid. If it is a protein, then they are called a glycoprotein, and if a lipid, they are termed as a glycolipid. Cells are literally sugar coated with these dangling chains of essential sugars we call glycans.
The totality of glycans produced by a cell is called the glycome. The glycome is the sugar coating and it is unique to every cell type. For example, a stem cell has one set of glycans and when it differentiates into a specific kind of cell it has another. Elements of the structure of the glycome are highly conserved (that is usually the part that is close to the protein scaffold) so that in vertebrates, the base part of the sugar chain may be similar within a species but the further out part of the branches is different.
The glycome is dynamic, not fixed. So the collection of sugars on a cell when it is in one state is different than the collection of sugars in another state. But because of the highly conserved parts of the glycome, the monosaccharides closer to the membrane can be identified as different cell types by their glycome structure. The immune system cells serve as a good example. Let’s take a closer look.
Immune cells are often characterized by using CD (Cluster of Differentiation) nomenclature. CD refers to the specific glycoprotein expressed on the surface of T helper cells, regulatory T cells, monocytes, macrophages, and dendritic cells. The human species has up to 350 CD designations. A CD4 cell is a Helper T Cell while a CD8 is a Cytotoxic T Cell. This chart gives you an idea of the immune phenotyping (identifying) the glycoproteins provide.
Another example of the importance of glycans to cell identification is in regards to human blood typing. It turns out that our blood type is determined by essential sugars! The diagram below shows the carbohyrate chains that determine the ABO blood group. Notice the essential sugars involved and their arrangement—fucose, galactose, N-actyl-galactosamine and N-acteyl-glucosamine.
It has been demonstrated in controlled studies in humans and animals that saccharides in glyconutrient rich foods accelerate healing, improve immune functioning, help the body to fight cancer and pathogens, slow down aging, improve memory, lower anxiety, and quell autoimmune phenomena without toxic side effects. It is therefore very important to bring foods into our diet that supply these vital sugars. We will continue our discussion next week.
This week we are highlighting the Supernatant Synbiotic Formula. In the video presentation below I focus of the purpose for our developing this product—to protect against hospital generated infections. The Supernatant is a fantastic general probiotic food that can be used for the task of everyday protection of your gastrointestinal track. The organisms selected are bacteria that have been used over the centuries in fermented foods. They are the friendly, helpful, hard working, and symbiotic bugs our bodies need.
This beautiful creature, that you can’t miss on a reef, thank God, is the Lion Fish—also called the turkey fish, dragon fish and scorpion fish. Anyone whose snorkeled or dove on the reefs in the magnificent waters of the Indo-Pacific knows to stay clear of this enticing creature for they can deliver an extremely painful wound from an array of up to 18 needle-like dorsal fins. Their venom for humans can cause nausea and breathing difficulties but are rarely fatal. They also tend to have an aggressive disposition. Still, they are very exciting to see around the reef, kind of like sharks are exciting.