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Moss polysaccharide discovery likened to beta glucen

By Andrew Spence

A polysaccharide discovered in moss is showing the potential to be exploited for health, industrial and medical uses.

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An international team of scientists, led by Professor Rachel Burton from the University of Adelaide in South Australia and Professor Alison Roberts, University of Rhode Island, was looking into the evolutionary history of beta glucan when they made the discovery.

Beta glucan, another polysaccharide, is a dietary fibre that is known to have many health benefits. It is abundant in cereals such as oats and barley, but has not been found in moss despite the plants having similar relevant genes. Beta glucan is also used in medicines for a range of conditions including diabetes, high cholesterol and cancer.

The researchers took one of these similar genes from moss to see if it would lead to the production of beta glucan.

“What we found was a new polysaccharide made up of the sugars glucose and arabinose – not just glucose as in beta glucan,” said Professor Burton from the University of Adelaide’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine.

“We have called it arabinoglucan and believe the way the two different sugars link together will make it structurally similar to beta glucan.

“We are not advocating eating moss, we are simply saying that there is great potential for this new polysaccharide as we’ve seen with others.”

The research has been published in ...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.