Published on April 28, 2022   36 min

Other Talks in the Series: The Immune System - Key Concepts and Questions

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Hello. My name is Paula Videira. I'm a Professor at NOVA School of Science and Technology and also a researcher at UCIBIO, the Institute for Health and Bioeconomy. I'm here to give you a talk about glycoimmunology. Glycoimmunology has been a science that has been inspiring me for many years. I'm leading a group, a research group, which studies glycoimmunology.
In the context of my talk, I will start by talking about what glycosylation is. What are the glycans and how do they affect the immune system. I'll also talk about glycan-binding proteins, in particular lectins, their types and their roles in the immune response. At the end, I will give you some insight into how glycoimmunology is important for diseases where you can find alterations of the glycan landscape, like in the case of congenital disorders of glycosylation and also in cancer.
What is glycoimmunology? Glycoimmunology comes from glycobiology. It's how glycobiology affects the immune response. Let's talk about what glycobiology is. Glycobiology is the science of sugars. The name 'glyco' comes from the Greek word, glukús, and it means sweet. This is the science of sweets, the science of sugars. When we say sugars or glycans, we are talking about the same thing. When we take a look at any living cells, we will find that these living cells are covered by a dense array of glycans, like an M&M sweet. In the beginning, scientists thought that the glycans on the cell surface was merely a shield to protect cells and enable them to become more robust. But we know that there is a huge diversity of these glycans at the cell surface and that they have many more functions attributed, which I will talk about later on. Also, you can see here in the figure, you can see an image of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This is an example, it could be any other virus, but you will find that this virus is also covered with proteins and these proteins are glycosylated. Take the example of the spike protein, which, as you know, is very important for infection via the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The protein is very well decorated with a dense array of glycans. Another example could be cancer cells, like any living cells, as I mentioned, are covered by a dense array of sugars. When we look at the cell surface, we will find this dense array of sugars.