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Home » The Sugar Coating on Your Cells is Trying to Tell You Something: Carolyn Bertozzi at TEDxStanford (Transcript)

The Sugar Coating on Your Cells is Trying to Tell You Something: Carolyn Bertozzi at TEDxStanford (Transcript)

Carolyn Bertozzi

Carolyn Bertozzi – TRANSCRIPT

This is a talk about sugar, and it’s not the only one we’ve heard today, but this is a talk about sugar and cancer, and that might give it a twist that is a little more unfamiliar. And I start with this slide, because this is my equivalent of when the teacher in high school says, “Sex,” and everybody pays attention. So this is, “Do I have your attention?” I became interested in sugar, actually, when I was in college – not this kind of sugar though.

It was the sugar that our biology professors taught us about in the context of the coating of your cells. And maybe you didn’t know that your cells are coated with sugar – and I didn’t know that either until I took these courses in college – but back then – and this was, let’s just call it ‘in the 1980s,’ – this was when people didn’t know much about why our cells are coated with sugar. I saved my old college notes. Do people save their notes from their college classes and dig through them once in a while?

And when I dug through my notes, what I noticed I had written down is that the sugar coating on our cells is like the sugar coating on a Peanut M&M. Do you remember that commercial from the 1970s or ’80s which is that M&M’s melt in your mouth but not in your hand? People thought the sugar coating on our cells was like a protective coating that somehow made our cells stronger or tougher, but we now know, many decades later, that it’s much more complicated than that, and that the sugars on our cells are actually very complex.

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