Dr Preston Ng is a research fellow with the Institute for Glycomics at Griffith University’s Gold Coast Campus.
“When someone mentions sugars, the additive found in sweet desserts immediately springs to mind. But when studying how bacteria and viruses cause disease in humans, sugars hold a very different meaning.
Like lights on a Christmas tree, every cell in the human body is decorated with sugars. The sugars act as a ‘code’, enabling cell-to-cell interaction and allowing the immune
system to differentiate between our cells and foreign substances.
Many bacteria and viruses exploit this ‘sugar code’ to cause infection. They possess structures that bind these sugars and gain entry in to healthy cells. When they replicate they can even disguise themselves from our immune system by displaying the human ‘sugar code’ on their surface.
Understanding how and where bacteria and viruses interact with this human ‘sugar code’ is important in designing new strategies to prevent and treat disease.
It could even help us fight heart disease and cancer.”
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