As one of the four macromolecules of life, carbohydrates have a vital role in a multitude of biological processes, including cellular communication, disease progression, and metabolism.
Considering the widespread role that carbohydrates play in daily life, scientists constantly seek to learn more about their structure-function relationships and how they influence natural systems. In essence, further progress towards understanding the role of carbohydrates is often limited by synthetic success, or lack thereof.
Carbohydrate modification remains extremely challenging, even today, because monosaccharides, or single sugar molecules, can have up to five hydroxyl or –OH groups connected to a carbon backbone. These hydroxyl groups are very similar yet distinct so modifying one hydroxyl group without affecting another is difficult.
For further information please reference the following publications:
(1) “Addressing the challenge of carbohydrate site selectivity by synergistic catalysis“, a commentary written about work from the Niu group, published in Chem.
(3) “Recent advances in site-selective functionalization of carbohydrates mediated by organocatalysts“, published in a special issue Carbohydrate Research.