Carbohydrates are key players in biological processes, involved in a myriad of molecular recognition events from protein folding, cell cell communication, bacterial and viral infections to fertilization. Cell-surface carbohydrates can differ considerably between cell lines and also between healthy and disease states. These differences can be exploited for the development of early diagnostic tools, prevention and/or treatment of diseases. via for example molecules/probes that target the interactions between key glycans and their receptors.
The vast complexity of carbohydrate systems combined with the scarcity of glycan-based tools for study have been a major challenge in glycobiology. Thus, the production of tailored and structurally defined glycan-based probes for biomedical applications represents a significant advancement in the field.
Nanotechnology provides a new array of techniques and platforms to study glycosystems. Recent developments in the field have provided access to an advanced toolkit of synthetic nanomaterials and the techniques to study such molecules at high resolution. In order to successfully develop new glycan-conjugated and carbohydrate-derived materials, interdisciplinary collaboration between material scientists, chemists, immunologists, microbiologists, molecular biologists and medics is crucial.