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Sialic Acid and the Central Nervous System: Perspectives on Biological Functions, Detection, Imaging Methods and Manipulation

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Abstract:

Glycobiology, broadly defined as the study of sugars in living systems, is becoming increasingly important for understanding the basic biology of the central nervous system (CNS) and diagnosing and devising new treatments for neurological disorders. Decades of research have uncovered many roles for both glycolipids and glycoproteins in the proper functioning of the brain; moreover many diseases are characterized by abnormalities in either the biosynthesis or catabolism of these cellular components. In many cases, however, only a rudimentary understanding of the basic biological roles of sugars in neural function exists. Similarly, methods to detect and diagnose glycosylation disorders are far from state-of-the-art compared to many facets of modern medicine. This review focuses on sialic acid, arguably the most important monosaccharide in CNS, and describes how recent advances in its manipulation by chemical and metabolic methods hold the possibility to converge with advanced instrumentation such as magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography, diffusion tensor imaging, and single photon emission computerized tomography now used for imaging of the CNS in human subjects. Specifically, methods are under development for tagging sialic acids in living systems with contrast agents suitable for magnetic resonance imaging, in essence allowing for the functional imaging of sugars at a molecular level. One of these methods, biochemical engineering of sialic acids by use of small molecule metabolic substrates, also holds promise for the manipulation of sialic acids for the development of novel therapies for neurological disorders.





Keywords: Alzheimer's disease (AD); Cerebrospinal Fluid; Lectins; brain development; gangliosides; neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM)

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2174/187152706777950729

Affiliations: Clark Hall 106A, Department of Biomedical Engineering, 3400 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA.

Publication date: August 1, 2006

More about this publication?
  • CNS & Neurological Disorders - Drug Targets aims to cover all the latest and outstanding developments on the medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, molecular biology, genomics and biochemistry of contemporary molecular targets involved in neurological and central nervous system (CNS) disorders e.g. disease specific proteins, receptors, enzymes, genes. Each issue of the journal will contain a series of timely in-depth reviews written by leaders in the field covering a range of current topics on drug targets involved in neurological and CNS disorders. As the discovery, identification, characterization and validation of novel human drug targets for neurological and CNS drug discovery continues to grow; this journal will be essential reading for all pharmaceutical scientists involved in drug discovery and development.
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