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Archive for December 31st, 2013

Sugary end of year thoughts


Last post of the year, perhaps – I have a couple of others brewing, but they need some thought. This has been an unusual year in some ways. First, a big thanks to all my readers – I know a few of you and I hope that my occasional posts are of some interest to you.

To start at the end, I enjoyed this year’s Royal Institution Christmas lectures, though I have a whinge. Why was hyaluronic acid called a protein. It isn’t. It is a glycosaminoglycan, polysaccharide, sugar, carbohydrate, polymer, but NOT a protein. Crucially, it is a secondary gene product. Polysaccharide synthesis is the consequence of the activity of enzymes, primary gene products, but the regulation of polysaccharide synthesis is at the whim of cell and organism physiology and only indirectly by the genome. This, I think, makes the entire business of the mole rat living longer than equivalent rodents and being cancer free even more interesting. If one can have “p53” named in the lecture, why not define hyaluronic acid correctly? Or is there a fear amongst those working with the central dogma of the messiness of things beyond? Generally, where things are messy in science is where the most interesting stuff is. Glycobiology is certainly messy, sticky and most interesting and I recommend it strongly to all – it is likely also to contribute to getting us out of the mess of global warming. (more…)

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