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Biological Chemistry

Video: First observations of self-assembling synthetic carbohydrates

The biomolecules can form nanostructures as peptides do, chemists find

by Kerri Jansen
April 19, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 16


Credit: J. Am. Chem. Soc.\C&EN

Carbohydrates are abundant in nature, forming the basis of plant leaves and stems and the exoskeletons of marine organisms. But scientists don’t know a lot about the structures and functions of these molecules because naturally occurring variations in their structures make them hard to study. Now, researchers at Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces and Tel Aviv University have synthesized structurally well-defined carbohydrates that self-assemble into a variety of nanostructures, behavior previously seen for peptides but never before observed in carbohydrates (J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2019, DOI: 10.1021/jacs.8b11882). The team found that differences in carbohydrate structure and assembly conditions resulted in different nanostructures. Peter Seeberger, a Max Planck Institute chemist who presented the work at the American Chemical Society Spring 2019 National Meeting in Orlando, Florida, hopes the work will lead to the development of tunable, carbohydrate-based materials for medical applications.

Music: “Scramby Eggs” by Andy G. Cohen is licensed under CC BY 4.0.


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