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N-Acetyl neuraminic acid (sialic acid) is a monosaccharide generally found as the terminating unit on glycans, which in turn are found on the surface of cells and glycoproteins. These glycans aid in a variety of biological functions such as cell interactions and immune response. Sialic acid has been identified as a biomarker for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and a range of other inflammatory and degenerative conditions. It has also been identified as a marker for different types of cancer. Sialic acid levels vary depending on the level of inflammation present during the course of an inflammatory disease and it is overexpressed by tumours as a shield against the immune system. Since the discovery of sialic acid, numerous assays have been developed for the identification and quantification of different sialic acid derivative monosaccharides and these assays fall into four main groups: colorimetric, fluorometric, enzymatic and chromatographic/mass spectrometric, with much overlap between these. Given the importance of sialic acids in biological pathways, this review article critically appraises assays that are used to detect and quantify sialic acid and its derivatives. Thus it details the method, sensitivity, specificity and wider scope of a range of assays, and concludes by suggesting some future directions for assay development and application. In this way, insight is provided into assays that allow for the accurate quantitation of sialic acid in biological samples, which may facilitate identification of the roles of sialic acid in healthy and disease pathways. Copyright © 2020 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Jack Cheeseman, Gunter Kuhnle, Daniel I R Spencer, Helen M I Osborn. Assays for the identification and quantification of sialic acids: Challenges, opportunities and future perspectives. Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry. 2021 Jan 15;30:115882

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PMID: 33376017

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