Innovation analysis on postgenomic biomarkers: Glycomics for chronic diseases
Mary Ann Liebert Inc.
School of Medical and Health Sciences
Despite decades of investment in biomarker research, we still do not have robust and field-tested biomarkers for many chronic diseases so as to anticipate clinical outcomes and thus move toward personalized medicine. Biomarker innovations have tended to focus on genomics, but next-generation biomarkers from the nascent field of glycomics now offer fresh vistas for innovation in chronic disease biomarkers and systems diagnostics. Glycosylation, regarded as a complex enzymatic process where sugars (glycans) bind to proteins and lipids, affects many human biological functions, including cell signaling, adhesion, and motility. Notably, and contrary to proteins, glycan biosynthesis does not require a template; rather its final structure is catalyzed by a repertoire of enzymes that attach or detach monosaccharides in the glycosylation pathway, making glycomics research more challenging than proteomics or genomics. Yet, given glycans' biological significance, alterations in their processing may be detrimental to human health and also offer insights for preventive medicine and wellness interventions. Therefore, studying glycans' structure and understanding their function and molecular interactions in the emerging field of glycomics are key to unraveling the pathogenesis of various common chronic diseases. This review summarizes the major concepts in glycomics, including glycan release methods, techniques for large-scale glycan analysis, and glycoinformatic tools for data handling and storage. In all, this analysis on glycomics offers strategies to build a robust postgenomic innovation roadmap for glycan-driven biomarkers as the field is anticipated to mature further and gain greater prominence in the near future.