Neurodegenerative diseases (NDs) affect millions of people worldwide. Characterized by the functional loss and death of neurons, NDs lead to symptoms (dementia and seizures) that affect the daily lives of patients. In spite of extensive research into NDs, the number of approved drugs for their treatment remains limited. There is therefore an urgent need to develop new approaches for the prevention and treatment of NDs. Glycans (carbohydrate chains) are ubiquitous, abundant, and structural complex natural biopolymers. Glycans often covalently attach to proteins and lipids to regulate cellular recognition, adhesion, and signaling. The importance of glycans in both the developing and mature nervous system is well characterized. Moreover, glycan dysregulation has been observed in NDs such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Huntington’s disease (HD), Parkinson’s disease (PD), multiple sclerosis (MS), and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Therefore, glycans are promising but underexploited therapeutic targets. In this review, we summarize the current understanding of glycans in NDs. We also discuss a number of natural products that functionally mimic glycans to protect neurons, which therefore represent promising new therapeutic approaches for patients with NDs.
- Natural products
- Neurodegenerative disease