Just a Molecule of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down

A spoon full of sugar does a hell of a lot more than help the medicine go down. And no, I’m not talking about allowing a three-year-old to run 100 consecutive laps around the living room while screaming at the top of his lungs and flailing his arms in the air without slowing down. Sugars are also essential to how effective many pharmaceuticals are in the human body.

When you get down to it, sugars are no more than strings of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen connected together in molecules in different shapes and sizes. And man are thee a shitload of different combinations.

Some of these combinations are very important to the function of the human body. The surface of cells and many biologically active molecules are studded with sugar structures that are involved in communication, immunity and inflammation. What’s more, they affect the way that pharmaceuticals work and can do so from both the surface of a cell or the surface of a molecule of medicine.

The problem is that these types of sugars are very difficult to produce in a lab in a way to make them useful to pharmaceuticals.

But not anymore.

In a new paper published by scientists at the University of Wisconsin, a new technique is detailed that allows researchers to take these sugars off of their initial structure for use on other surfaces. What’s more, once they attach to their new molecule, the substance changes colors, making it apparent which of the proteins or other substances have successfully bonded with the sugar.

According to Jon Thorson, a professor of pharmaceutical sciences, the technique basically makes the use of these sugars more user friendly. It will become possible for researchers to apply this sugars in many new configurations to many new drugs and other molecules. The ease will allow the swift study of thousands of different possible configurations.

Making variations like these is common practice in the pharmaceutical industry. And simply changing the sugars attached to the molecules – or removing them completely – can change the way the drug works and what it does.

So basically, Thorson just helped open a bunch of new possible drugs that can now be tested quickly and easily to see exactly what the hell it is that they do.


About bigkingken

A science writer dedicated to proving that the Big Ten - or the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, if you will - is more than athletics.
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