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Monday, April 02, 2007

Monday's Molecule #20

Name this molecule. The figure doesn't show the precise structure of the complete molecule but there's enough of a hint for you to figure it out. In this case we don't need a precise scientific name.

As usual, there's a connection between Monday's molecule and this Wednesday's Nobel Laureate but this one is very indirect. Nobody will be able to guess it. The bonus lunch date will be awarded to the first person to make the connection between this molecule and the University of Toronto.

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  1. This would appear to be a sulfated glycosaminoglycan (but it took me awhile to decide that's what it was). And a little further research revealed: Heparin. I now recall that we discussed aspects of this biochemistry at our lunch date last week so I will decline to submit my guess for a link to the Nobel prize. However one link to U. of T. could be easily found online in Wikipedia (Google search string, sulfated glycosaminoglycan toronto):

    "In 1937, Connaught Medical Research Laboratories, then a part of the University of Toronto, perfected a technique for producing safe and reliable heparin that was suitable for use in humans. Before this time, heparin was available, but was scarce, extremely expensive, toxic and consequently of no medical value."

  2. Not so found of the term heparin. I would rather define it as heparan sulfate but this is always an ongoing discussion.

    Could the link to this Wednesdays Nobel Laureate be that Arne Tiselius worked at Uppsala University, Sweden, where also the heparan sulfate master Prof. Ulf Lindahl works.

    Ulf Lindahl defined the molecular mechanisms behind the anticoagulative effects of heparin which gives rise to possible connection number two. Arne Tiselius did considerable work on serum proteins.

  3. Ben, the difference between heparin, heparan, and heparan sulphate is confusing to those of us who are outside the field. I'd appreciate it if you could post a short message explaining the distinction.

    I'm going to be addressing the use of heparin in preventing clot formation. As far as I know this is not the same molecule as the heparan sulfate that Ulf Lindahl works on.

    Until yesterday, I had never heard of Ulf Lindahl and I certainly didn't know he was at Uppsala. My connection to Tiselius was the fact that he used electrophoresis to analyze blood plasma proteins and this relates to the blood clotting theme from last week and this week.

  4. Heparin is a special name for the over-modified (very high degree of sulfation) heparan sulfate only produced by mast cells. So the two molecules are basically “the same”, there is just a difference in the amount of sulfation.

    Ulf Lindahl has during many years worked on to understand the biosynthesis of this molecule. His main discovery was to elucidate the active motif in heparin (a pentasaccharide, with a special sulfation profile) that carries the anti-coagulative activity. His discovery has led to the use of low molecular weight heparins in the clinic that enables a better control of the treatment.