Awareness of the importance of carbohydrates in living systems and medicine is growing due to the increasing understanding of their biological and pharmacological relevance. Carbohydrates are ubiquitous and perform a wide array of biological roles. Carbohydrate-based or -modified therapeutics are used extensively in cardiovascular and hematological treatments ranging from inflammatory diseases and anti-thrombotic treatments to wound healing. Heparin is a wellknown and widely used example of a carbohydrate-based drug but will not be discussed as it has been extensively reviewed. We will detail carbohydrate-based and -modified therapeutics, both those that are currently marketed or in various stages of clinical trials and those that are potential therapeutics based on promising preclinical investigations. Carbohydrate- based therapeutics include polysaccharide and oligosaccharide anti-inflammatory, anti-coagulant and antithrombotic agents from natural and synthetic sources, some as an alternative to heparin and others which were designed based on known structure-functional relationships. Some of these compounds have multiple biological effects, showing anti-adhesive, anti-HIV and anti-arthrithic activities. Small molecules, derivatives or mimetics of complement inhibitors, are detailed for use in limiting ischemia/ reperfusion injuries. Monosaccharides, both natural and synthetic, have been investigated for their in vivo anti-inflammatory and cardioprotective properties. Modification by glycosylation of natural products, or glycosylation-mimicking modification, has a significant effect on the parent molecule including increased plasma half-life and refining or increasing desired functions. It is hoped that this review will highlight the vast therapeutic potential of these natural bioactive molecules.
Keywords: Carbohydrate therapeutics, glycobiology, anti-inflammatory, hyaluronic acid, erythropoietin, glycosaminoglycans, monosaccharides
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