Recent research has uncovered unexpected ways that glycans contribute to biology, as well as new strategies for combatting disease using approaches involving glycans. To make full use of glycans for clinical applications, we need more detailed information on the location, nature, and dynamics of glycan expression in vivo. Such studies require the use of specimens acquired directly from patients. Effective studies of clinical specimens require low-volume assays, high precision measurements, and the ability to process many samples. Assays using affinity reagents-lectins and glycan-binding antibodies-can meet these requirements, but further developments are needed to make the methods routine and effective. Recent advances in the use of glycan-binding proteins involve improved determination of specificity using glycan arrays; the availability of databases for mining and analyzing glycan array data; lectin engineering methods; and the ability to quantitatively interpret lectin measurements. Here, we describe many of the challenges and opportunities involved in the application of these new approaches to the study of biological samples. The new tools hold promise for developing methods to improve the outcomes of patients afflicted with diseases characterized by aberrant glycan expression.
Keywords: Antibody–lectin sandwich arrays; Glycan arrays; Glycan-binding proteins; Glycans; GlycoSearch; Lectins.
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