Understanding the role of sugars in human health

Learn how the field of glycomics provides incredible insight into our immune systems, disease, and overall health in a webinar with Lara Mahal, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Glycomics

Katie Willis - 05 May 2020

Every cell in your body is coated in sugar. And each of these sugars have an important impact on your health, explains glycomics expert Lara Mahal

But we’re not talking about the kind of sugar that you put in your coffee or consume in an apple or a slice of bread. “This is a much more general class of carbohydrate,” explained Mahal, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in glycomics. 

Mahal is an expert in the field of glycomics, which examines chains of sugars, called glycans, in the human body. Glycans play a major role in human health—from the benefits of breast milk to the functioning of our immune systems. The most abundant biomolecule on the planet, sugars are one of the fundamental building blocks of our bodies and the world around us. And the better we understand them, the larger the role glycomics can play in health care.

“Sugars are really critical for the way our cells interact with one another as well as foreign cells, such as viruses and bacteria,” explained Mahal. Mahal is also a member of GlycoNet, a pan-Canadian Network of Centres of Excellence of more than 140 researchers, centred at UAlberta. 

On April 30th, Mahal hosted the inaugural session of the Science Connects Webinar Series as she discussed her work in identifying sugars involved in human health and disease. 

Missed the live webinar? Watch the recording to learn more about the role of glycomics in our immune systems, viral and bacterial infections, cancer, and our natural microbiome—including new and developing research related to pandemic viruses such as influenza and COVID-19.

Hungry for more? Visit our calendar to find information on similar events, including live talks and webinars, or check out the Office of Alumni Relations’ On Demand offerings. 

We also offer many free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC’s) to keep you learning and engaged, like Astro 101, Bugs 101, Dino 101, and Mountains 101. For information on how these courses align with Alberta’s K-12 curriculum, please see this useful guide.