Our Vision

The University of Alberta is known for its concentration in glycosylation researchers, and has historically been an international leader in glycomics. GIA builds on this strength and creates opportunities to address the often diverse and complex health issues Albertans face from a glycomic perspective.

Our Mission

Our mission is to bring glycomics into the lives of Albertans. We connect people and assets focused on glycosylation research,  educate both early STEM students and more mature biomedical researchers on its relevance to health and disease, and promote the research conducted by our members.

Hello World!

We’re the Glycomics Institute of Alberta (GIA), a provincial platform focused on education, communication, and collaboration. Abnormal glycans are implicated in the pathogenesis of every major disease. Understanding how these glycans drive disease could lead to developing new biomarkers for diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment. GIA provides an organized framework for discovery in glycoscience.

Traditional Territorial Acknowledgement

The University of Alberta respectfully acknowledges that we are located on Treaty 6 territory, a traditional gathering place for diverse Indigenous peoples including the Cree, Blackfoot, Métis, Nakota Sioux, Iroquois, Dene, Ojibway/Saulteaux/Anishinaabe, Inuit, and many others whose histories, languages, and cultures continue to influence our vibrant community.

What is Glycomics?

Glycans, also known as carbohydrates, oligosaccharides, or sugars, are the most abundant biomolecule on the planet and coat every cell in the human body. Cells use these sugars to communicate at the molecular level to carry out a number of functions, from removing harmful bacteria to aiding in cell migration. They are essential to our health and wellbeing, and could be part of novel solutions to many health problems including cancer, infectious disease and neurodegeneration. Yet they are still one of the least studied classes of biomolecules.

The information coded by these sugars is known as the sugar code. Glycomics is the study of the sugar code within our bodies, referred to as the glycome. Our understanding of the sugar code and the incorporation of this knowledge has lagged. GIA provides an extraordinary opportunity to address this gap in a comprehensive manner across multiple disciplines. Leveraging this underexplored facet of health and disease will make a big impact on patient outcomes.

Check it Out Yourself

Below you’ll find links to some of the recent work done in the field, right here at the University of Alberta!

Glycans in Gut Colonization

The Klassen Lab showed that microbes with enzymes that break down human milk oligosaccharides have a competitive advantage in colonizing the infant gut.

Read the full paper here

Glycans In Flu Vaccine Effectiveness

The Mahal Lab has found that some people may be unable to establish good protection post-vaccination because they have high levels of a particular glycan.

Read the full paper here

Glycans in Cancer Diagnosis

A paper jointly published with the Mahal Lab distinguished cancer stem cells from other less aggressive tumor cells based on differences in glycosylation.

Read the full paper here

Glycans in the Immune Response

The Cairo Lab was able to block immune cell migration by knocking down neuraminidase enzymes, which dictate the glycan structure of cellular receptors.

Read the full paper here

Glycans In COVID-19

The Klassen Lab and Macauley Lab jointly identified which glycans SARS-CoV-2 binds upon infection, suggesting what kind of tissues this virus can grow in.

Read the full paper here

Glycans in Brain Health

The Sipione Lab found that gangliosides, a type of glycolipid found in the brain, may be able to treat neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Huntington's.

Read the full paper here
Glycomics Researchers at UAlberta
Papers Published in 2022

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