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Courses "Introduction to Glycobiology" and "Glycoimmunologyincancerandinfectious disease"

Wednesday 13 October 2010

These two courses can be followed at the VU in Amsterdam. The two courses provide, each in their own way information about (immune-)glycans.

Virtually all cell-membrane proteins and most blood plasma proteins are glycosylated. This glycosylation can affect the structural and modulatory properties of the proteins but also enables specific recognition by lectins and receptor proteins. Cells use these interactions to signal during immune responses. DC-SIGN is an example of an C-type lectin that is present on dendritic cells; upon recognition of its ligand the receptor can be internalized and targeted to the lysosomal compartments where it can enhance antigen presentation. Some pathogens use glycans to cause infection. The Influenza virus can distinguish between different forms of sialic acid, causing host specificity.

The introduction course highlighted some of the functions of glycans in immune responses. In addition, it gave an introduction on how to use methods like Mass Spectrometry (MS) to obtain more information about the structure of the glycans.

Only ten students were following this course. Lectures were therefore very personal and there was a lot of time for questions. A practical (computer) course was given to explain MS. In the following course, glycoimmunology in cancer and infectious diseases, we were provided with an specific subject and one related article. By finding additional information the students were, in groups of 2-3 students, supposed to make a presentation (30 min) on this subject.

Overall I would say that this course provided me with a lot of information about immunoglycans. It was interesting to learn more about receptors like DC-SIGN. The people that organized the course were very friendly and helpful. Because of the mixed background of the students (all a biomedical sciences bachelor but different masters) we could learn a lot from each other. I would definitely recommend the introduction course because it provides information on a subject that is not highlighted in the courses provided by the master infection and immunity. The glycoimmunology in cancer and infectious diseases course provided an opportunity to specialize in one of the subjects of the first course.

PS. New information on the VU website suggests that there is only one course (glycoimmunology, 3 ects) left.

Tetje Sluis
Aug 2010