A new study that has better explained how carbohydrates (sugars) bond is likely to influence the way drugs are developed in the future.
Using specialist laser equipment, John Simons and Ben Davis together with co-workers from the University of Oxford have challenged long standing theories that have until now, been based on observations and experiments made in solution.
For the first time, the shapes of carbohydrates have been revealed, both when they are free from any external influence, and when they are interacting with neighbouring molecules, such as water, or protein fragments.
This enables the two states to be compared. These experiments have demonstrated what happens to the sugars when they are manipulated in different ways-a crucial factor in drug design where scientists need to ensure they will be able to control the way drugs work within the body.
"This breakthrough opens up a whole realm of possibilities for the way we can use this information to inform future drug development. If we can understand the structural consequences of carbohydrate protein binding we can work out how sugars might be manipulated to function at their most effective within drug development and delivery work," said Simons.
The results have been published in the journal Nature.