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Pharmacological targeting heparan sulfate–protein interactions

While understanding novel physiological functions of heparan sulfate is always thrilling, finding ways to manipulate its functions in pathological conditions can be life-saving. Heparin, a highly sulfated form of heparan sulfate made by mast cells, has been widely used as a potent anticoagulant for over a century. Heparin works by promoting the inhibition of antithrombin towards thrombin, which drives blood coagulation. We envision that the functions of many more disease-causing HS-binding proteins can be modulated by manipulating their interactions with HS. We believe the interactions can be manipulated in two different ways. The first approach is to utilize structure-defined HS oligosaccharides or HS mimetic, which would function as antagonists or agonists to inhibit or promote the interactions between HS and HS-binding proteins. The second approach is to target the HS-binding sites of HS-binding proteins by mAbs, which would effectively antagonize their interaction with HS and block their function. 

Currently, we are working with Dr. Jian Liu's group to inhibit the activity of HMGB1 using the first approach. We are also developing mAbs to inhibit RAGE activation using the second approach. 


1. Miaomiao Li, Chih Yean Ong, Christophe J Langouët-Astrié, Lisi Tan, Ashwni Verma, Yimu Yang, Xiaoxiao Zhang, Dhaval K. Shah, Eric P. Schmidt and Ding Xu (2022). Heparan Sulfate-dependent RAGE oligomerization is indispensable for pathophysiological functions of RAGE. eLife (2022);11:e71403 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.71403.

2.     Chihyean Ong, Miaomiao Li, Ding Xu (2023). Development of mAbs that block the heparan sulfate binding site of receptor for advance glycation end-product (RAGE). Glycobiology


  1. U.S. provisional patent application (No. 62/928,884) was filed on October 31, 2019. The application describes an anti-RAGE mAb that we developed, which inhibits HS-dependent RAGE oligomerization and RAGE signaling. Role: Principle inventor. 

  2. U.S. Provisional Patent Application (No. 62/581,443). The application describes an structure-defined HS oligosaccharides that displays protective effect on drug-induced liver damage. Role: co-inventor (principle inventor: Dr. Jian Liu). 

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