Those under-appreciated carbohydrates

This is a promotional video for the University of Utrecht, but it doesn’t lie (although I’m beginning to detest the phrase “dark matter of the ______”). Glycans are essential components of the cell.

In our cell biology course — and probably in most cell bio courses — we start with an overview of those key macromolecules, carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids, and then spend almost all of the semester focused on proteins and nucleic acids. I think in part it’s because we have a straightforward connection between them, and so much of the discipline of molecular biology is about just those two. It’s also the case that there is no such thing as a gene coding for a lipid or a glycan, which immediately removes them from consideration or interest to many biologists. Instead, glycans and lipids are produced indirectly by the cellular and extracellular environment, which makes them an order of magnitude more difficult to understand.

But that should make them even cooler!

It doesn’t make them “dark matter of the cell”, though.


  1. robro says

    (although I’m beginning to detest the phrase “dark matter of the ______”)

    Nothing like some buzz word science journalism to get the blood boiling.

  2. HawkAtreides says

    The new scientific blockbuster, coming this summer: Underappreciated: Rise of the Glycans!

  3. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I can’t complain about carbohydrates (except when they raise my A1C value), as they gave me an almost 40 year career as a scientist.

  4. golkarian says

    Best part is how cell biology is represented by storing cells in liquid nitrogen :)

    Just amuses me, like if someone represented cooking by putting ingredients in the fridge