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April 15, 2003

Media Contact: Sue Pondrom, (619) 543-6163

National Library of Medicine Selects
UCSD Textbook for Searchable Website

Essentials of Glycobiology, a major medical textbook edited primarily by faculty from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) Glycobiology Research and Training Center (GRTC), has been selected by the National Library of Medicine for the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) Bookshelf website, which provides a searchable collection of selected major biomedical textbooks. These electronic books are linked to PubMed/MEDLINE, the most widely used database of biomedical literature.

During its first month on the site, the glycobiology textbook experienced more than 20,000 “hits,” according to the book’s executive editor, Ajit Varki, M.D., UCSD professor of medicine and cellular and molecular medicine, and co-director of the GRTC.

Additional editors of the book, which was the first major textbook in the emerging field of glycobiology, are Richard Cummings, professsor of biochemistry, University of Oklahoma; Jeffrey Esko, Ph.D., UCSD professor of cellular and molecular medicine and co-director of the GRTC; Hudson Freeze, Ph.D., professor of glycobiology, the Burnham Institute, UCSD adjunct professor of pathology and member, GRTC; Gerald Hart professor and chair of biological chemistry, John Hopkins University; and Jamey Marth, Ph.D., UCSD professor of cellular and molecular medicine, associate investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and a member of GRTC.


In addition to DNA, RNA and proteins, the creation of cells and organisms requires two other major classes of molecules, lipids and sugars. All cell surfaces and many proteins display a dense and complex array of sugar chains called oligosaccharides or glycans. Glycobiology is the study of the structure, biosynthesis and biology of these glycans.

For years, the scientific world has focused on nucleic acids, proteins and lipids. Due to their complexity and technical barriers in their analysis, glycans have received less attention. And yet, glycans are a major ingredient of every living organism, from primates to mollusks to amoebas. They are as varied in structure as they are ubiquitous, often attached as long intricate chains to proteins and fats, or existing freely on their own. They mediate communication and connections between healthy cells, and can be deeply involved when things go wrong, for example in genetic abnormalities, infectious disease, inflammation and cancer.

For more information about glycobiology and current research, see the GRTC website (http://grtc.ucsd.edu) as well as the sites and articles listed below.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?db=Books (PubMed/NCBI Bookshelf)

http://grtc.ucsd.edu/ (UCSD Glycobiology Research and Training Center)

http://www.the-scientist.com/yr2002/apr/profile1_020429.html (“Glycobiology Goes to the Ball,” TheScientist, April 29, 2002)

http://web.mit.edu/chemistry/Seeberger-Lab/nature.pdf (“The bittersweet promise of glycobiology”, Nature Biotechnology, October 2001)

(“Searching for Medicine’s Sweet Spot,” Science, 2001 March 23; 291: 2338-2343)

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