Studying these cells could lead to new treatments for diseases ranging from gastrointestinal disease to diabetes.
In a nod to the growing interest in the sugars and proteins that make up the jacket around every cell, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) has formed a consortium of more than a dozen universities worldwide, including MIT, to study the topic.
The lead MIT investigator for the new Consortium for Functional Glycomics is Associate Professor Ram Sasisekharan of the Division of Bioengineering and Environmental Health, who reported a link between the sugars in the cell jacket and the growth or inhibition of cancer ( see story ).
With its "glue grant" of $7.4 million for the first year of funding, the consortium hopes to begin to untangle huge biomedical problems associated with sugars and proteins, like teasing apart their roles in cellular communication. NIGMS, which made the grant late last fall, anticipates spending a projected total of $34 million on the project over the course of five years.
The Consortium for Functional Glycomics is led by Dr. James Paulson of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. For more information, click here.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 30, 2002.