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CCRC — Behind the Scenes

by Jessica Laverentz


Samples arrive daily, often packed in dry ice. They might be bacterial polysaccharides or cobra venom, a new vaccine or Brazilian coffee.

They come from research laboratories — university, government and private — where scientists want to know more about the complex carbohydrates in those samples.

Complex carbohydrates occur in all living cells and may hold clues for new cancer diagnostics and vaccines or provide new insights into molecular communication within cells.

Where are complex carbohydrates found? (see answers below)

Credits: A. Theodore D. Leninger,USDA Forest Service,; B. Scott Bauer, USDA ARS,; C & D. James Sullivan,; E. Courtesy of Amgen; F. Paul Wray, Iowa State University,

A. In fungal cell walls: some may have medicinal properties
B. In insect exoskeletons
C. In red blood cells: cell surface carbohydrates determine blood type
D. In bacterial cell walls or capsules: the molecules trigger immune response
E. In anti-anemia drug erythropoietin: carbohydrates increase efficacy
F. In plant cell walls: for structure, regulation of growth & development, stimulation of defenses

“Our structural work emphasizes the carbohydrate component of samples we receive,” said Parastoo Azadi, who directs the three service labs of UGA’s Complex Carbohydrate Research Center.

“We provide a service not many other people can. Not many people have the sophisticated instruments or the expertise to analyze their carbohydrates, so they come to us. As long as they have a carbohydrate, we’ll analyze it.”

Service lab chemists analyze these hard-to-study molecules, determine their structures and provide preliminary reports to the researchers, who then use the information to gain a better understanding of how specific complex carbohydrates function.

“The CCRC is a unique national resource that needs to keep going,” said Gerald Hart, department director and biological chemistry professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “It provides educational services and technical expertise that are not available anywhere else.”

Funded in part by federal grants, the CCRC service labs assure that researchers nationwide have access to CCRC expertise, equipment and training courses.

Each summer the service labs offer two intense, week-long courses that include lectures by renowned CCRC researchers and hands-on experience in the labs. Scientists from the United States and from such countries as Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and South Africa learn to answer questions about complex carbohydrates for themselves.

Even so, that doesn’t seem to slow the number of samples that just keep arriving.

For more information, contact Parastoo Azadi at or Russ Carlson at


Research Communications, Office of the VP for Research, UGA
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