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Astrocytes Eat Connections to Maintain Plasticity in Adult Brains
Developing brains constantly sprout new neuronal connections called synapses as they learn and remember. Important connections — the ones that are repeatedly introduced, such as how to avoid danger — are nurtured and reinforced, while connections deemed unnecessary are pruned away. Adult brains undergo similar pruning, but it was unclear how or why synapses in the adult brain get eliminated. Now, a team of KAIST researchers has found the mechanism underlying plasticity and, potentially, neurological disorders in adult brains. They published their findings on December 23 in Nature. “Our findings have profound implications for our understanding of how neural circuits change during learning and memory, as well as in diseases,” said paper author Won-Suk Chung, an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at KAIST. “Changes in synapse number have strong association with the prevalence of various neurological disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia, frontotemporal dementia, and several forms of seizures.” Gray matter in the brain contains microglia and astrocytes, two complementary cells that, among other things, support neurons and synapses. Microglial are a frontline immunity defense, responsible for eating pathogens and dead cells, and astrocytes are star-shaped cells that help structure the brain and maintain homeostasis by helping to control signaling between neurons. According to Professor Chung, it is generally thought that microglial eat synapses as part of its clean-up effort in a process known as phagocytosis. “Using novel tools, we show that, for the first time, it is astrocytes and not microglia that constantly eliminate excessive and unnecessary adult excitatory synaptic connections in response to neuronal activity,” Professor Chung said. “Our paper challenges the general consensus in this field that microglia are the primary synapse phagocytes that control synapse numbers in the brain.” Professor Chung and his team developed a molecular sensor to detect synapse elimination by glial cells and quantified how often and by which type of cell synapses were eliminated. They also deployed it in a mouse model without MEGF10, the gene that allows astrocytes to eliminate synapses. Adult animals with this defective astrocytic phagocytosis had unusually increased excitatory synapse numbers in the hippocampus. Through a collaboration with Dr. Hyungju Park at KBRI, they showed that these increased excitatory synapses are functionally impaired, which cause defective learning and memory formation in MEGF10 deleted animals. “Through this process, we show that, at least in the adult hippocampal CA1 region, astrocytes are the major player in eliminating synapses, and this astrocytic function is essential for controlling synapse number and plasticity,” Chung said. Professor Chung noted that researchers are only beginning to understand how synapse elimination affects maturation and homeostasis in the brain. In his group’s preliminary data in other brain regions, it appears that each region has different rates of synaptic elimination by astrocytes. They suspect a variety of internal and external factors are influencing how astrocytes modulate each regional circuit, and plan to elucidate these variables. “Our long-term goal is understanding how astrocyte-mediated synapse turnover affects the initiation and progression of various neurological disorders,” Professor Chung said. “It is intriguing to postulate that modulating astrocytic phagocytosis to restore synaptic connectivity may be a novel strategy in treating various brain disorders.” This work was supported by the Samsung Science & Technology Foundation, the National Research Foundation of Korea, and the Korea Brain Research Institute basic research program. Other contributors include Joon-Hyuk Lee and Se Young Lee, Department of Biological Sciences, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST); Ji-young Kim, Hyoeun Lee and Hyungju Park; Research Group for Neurovascular Unit, Korea Brain Research Institute (KBRI); Seulgi Noh, and Ji Young Mun, Research Group for Neural Circuit, KBRI. Kim, Noh and Park are also affiliated with the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology (DGIST). -Profile Professor Won-Suk Chung Department of Biological Sciences Gliabiology Lab (https://www.kaistglia.org/) KAIST -Publication "Astrocytes phagocytose adult hippocampal synapses for circuit homeostasis" https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-03060-3
Electrosprayed Micro Droplets Help Kill Bacteria and Viruses
With COVID-19 raging around the globe, researchers are doubling down on methods for developing diverse antimicrobial technologies that could be effective in killing a virus, but harmless to humans and the environment. A recent study by a KAIST research team will be one of the responses to such efforts. Professor Seung Seob Lee and Dr. Ji-hun Jeong from the Department of Mechanical Engineering developed a harmless air sterilization prototype featuring electrosprayed water from a polymer micro-nozzle array. This study is one of the projects being supported by the KAIST New Deal R&D Initiative in response to COVID-19. Their study was reported in Polymer. The electrosprayed microdroplets encapsulate reactive oxygen species such as hydroxyl radicals, superoxides that are known to have an antimicrobial function. The encapsulation prolongs the life of reactive oxygen species, which enable the droplets to perform their antimicrobial function effectively. Prior research has already proven the antimicrobial and encapsulation effects of electrosprayed droplets. Despite its potential for antimicrobial applications, electrosprayed water generally operates under an electrical discharge condition, which can generate ozone. The inhalation of ozone is known to cause damage to the respiratory system of humans. Another technical barrier for electrospraying is the low flow rate problem. Since electrospraying exhibits the dependence of droplet size on the flow rate, there is a limit for the amount of water microdroplets a single nozzle can produce. With this in mind, the research team developed a dielectric polymer micro-nozzle array to perform the multiplexed electrospraying of water without electrical discharge. The polymer micro-nozzle array was fabricated using the MEMS (Micro Electro-Mechanical System) process. According to the research team, the nozzle can carry five to 19 micro-nozzles depending on the required application. The high aspect ratio of the micro-nozzle and an in-plane extractor were proposed to concentrate the electric field at the tip of the micro-nozzle, which prevents the electrical discharge caused by the high surface tension of water. A micro-pillar array with a hydrophobic coating around the micro-nozzle was also proposed to prevent the wetting of the micro-nozzle array. The polymer micro-nozzle array performed in steady cone jet mode without electrical discharge as confirmed by high-speed imaging and nanosecond pulsed imaging. The water microdroplets were measured to be in the range of six to 10 μm and displayed an antimicrobial effect on Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus. Professor Lee said, “We believe that this research can be applied to air conditioning products in areas that require antimicrobial and humidifying functions.” Publication: Jeong, J. H., et al. (2020) Polymer micro-atomizer for water electrospray in the cone jet mode. Polymer. Vol. No. 194, 122405. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.polymer.2020.122405 Profile: Seung Seob Lee, Ph.D. firstname.lastname@example.org http://mmst.kaist.ac.kr/ Professor Department of Mechanical Engineering (ME) Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) https://www.kaist.ac.kr Daejeon 34141, Korea Profile: Ji-hun Jeong, Ph.D. email@example.com Postdoctoral researcher Department of Mechanical Engineering (ME) Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) https://www.kaist.ac.kr Daejeon 34141, Korea (END)
Emeritus Professor Jae-Kyu Lee Wins the AIS LEO Award
Emeritus Professor Jae-Kyu Lee has won the Association for Information Systems LEO Award 2020. Professor Lee, the first Korean to receive the LEO Award, was recognized for his research and development in preventative cyber security, which is a major part of the efforts he leads to realize what Professor Lee has named "Bright Internet." Established in 1999, this award was named after the world’s first business application of computing, the Lyons Electronic Office and recognizes outstanding individuals in the field of information systems. The LEO Award recognized four winners including Professor Lee this year. He has been professor and HHI Chair Professor at KAIST from 1985 to 2016 since he has received his Ph.D. in information and operations management from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. He served as the Dean of College of Business and supervised around 30 doctoral students. He is currently the Distinguished Professor of School of Management at Xi’an Jiaotong University. His research mainly focused on the creation of Bright Internet for preventive cybersecurity, improving relevance of research from Axiomatic Theories, and development of AI for electronic commerce and managerial decision support. He is a fellow and was the president of the Association for Information Systems, and co-chaired the International Conference on Information Systems in 2017. He was the founder of Principles for the Bright Internet and established the Bright Internet Research Center at KAIST and Xi’an Jiatong University. He also established the Bright Internet Global Summit since ICIS 2017 in Seoul, and organized the Bright Internet Project Consortium in 2019 as a combined effort of academia-industry partnership. (www.brightinternet.org.) He was a charter member of the Pacific Asia Conference in Information Systems, and served as conference chair. He was the founder editor-in-chief of the journal, Electronic Commerce Research and Applications (Elsevier), and was the founding chair of the International Conference on Electronic Commerce. In Korea, her served as president of Korea Society of Management Information Systems and Korea Society of Intelligent Information Systems. "I am honored to be designated the first Korean winner of the honorable LEO Award," Lee said. "Based on my life-long efforts for developments in the field, I will continue to contribute to the research and development of information media systems."
Researchers Report Longest-lived Aqueous Flow Batteries
New technology to overcome the life limit of next-generation water-cell batteries A research team led by Professor Hee-Tak Kim from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering has developed water-based zinc/bromine redox flow batteries (ZBBs) with the best life expectancy among all the redox flow batteries reported by identifying and solving the deterioration issue with zinc electrodes. Professor Kim, head of the Advanced Battery Center at KAIST's Nano-fusion Research Institute, said, "We presented a new technology to overcome the life limit of next-generation water-cell batteries. Not only is it cheaper than conventional lithium-ion batteries, but it can contribute to the expansion of renewable energy and the safe supply of energy storage systems that can run with more than 80 percent energy efficiency." ZBBs were found to have stable life spans of more than 5,000 cycles, even at a high current density of 100 mA/cm2. It was also confirmed that it represented the highest output and life expectancy compared to Redox flow batteries (RFBs) reported worldwide, which use other redox couples such as zinc-bromine, zinc-iodine, zinc-iron, and vanadium. Recently, more attention has been focused on energy storage system (ESS) that can improve energy utilization efficiency by storing new and late-night power in large quantities and supplying it to the grid if necessary to supplement the intermittent nature of renewable energy and meet peak power demand. However, lithium-ion batteries (LIBs), which are currently the core technology of ESSs, have been criticized for not being suitable for ESSs, which store large amounts of electricity due to their inherent risk of ignition and fire. In fact, a total of 33 cases of ESSs using LIBs in Korea had fire accidents, and 35% of all ESS facilities were shut down. This is estimated to have resulted in more than 700 billion won in losses. As a result, water-based RFBs have drawn great attention. In particular, ZBBs that use ultra-low-cost bromide (ZnBr2) as an active material have been developed for ESSs since the 1970s, with their advantages of high cell voltage, high energy density, and low price compared to other RFBs. Until now, however, the commercialization of ZBBs has been delayed due to the short life span caused by the zinc electrodes. In particular, the uneven "dendrite" growth behavior of zinc metals during the charging and discharging process leads to internal short circuits in the battery which shorten its life. The research team noted that self-aggregation occurs through the surface diffusion of zinc nuclei on the carbon electrode surface with low surface energy, and determined that self-aggregation was the main cause of zinc dendrite formation through quantum mechanics-based computer simulations and transmission electron microscopy. Furthermore, it was found that the surface diffusion of the zinc nuclei was inhibited in certain carbon fault structures so that dendrites were not produced. Single vacancy defect, where one carbon atom is removed, exchanges zinc nuclei and electrons, and is strongly coupled, thus inhibiting surface diffusion and enabling uniform nuclear production/growth. The research team applied carbon electrodes with high density fault structure to ZBBs, achieving life characteristics of more than 5,000 cycles at a high charge current density (100 mA/cm2), which is 30 times that of LIBs. This ESS technology, which can supply eco-friendly electric energy such as renewable energy to the private sector through technology that can drive safe and cheap redox flow batteries for long life, is expected to draw attention once again. Publication: Ju-Hyuk Lee, Riyul Kim, Soohyun Kim, Jiyun Heo, Hyeokjin Kwon, Jung Hoon Yang, and Hee-Tak Kim. 2020. Dendrite-free Zn electrodeposition triggered by interatomic orbital hybridization of Zn and single vacancy carbon defects for aqueous Zn-based flow batteries. Energy and Environmental Science, 2020, 13, 2839-2848. Link to download the full-text paper:http://xlink.rsc.org/?DOI=D0EE00723D Profile: Prof. Hee-Tak Kimheetak.firstname.lastname@example.org://eed.kaist.ac.krAssociate ProfessorDepartment of Chemical & Biomolecular EngineeringKAIST
Dongwon Chairman Donates ₩50 Billion to Fund AI Graduate School
Dongwon Group Honorary Chairman and Founder Jae-chul Kim donated his private property worth ₩50 billion (US $46 million) to KAIST on December 16. Honorary Chairman Kim’s gift will fund the KAIST Graduate School of AI (GSAI), which was established last year. The KAIST GSAI will be re-named the ‘Kim Jae-chul Graduate School of AI’ to honor Honorary Chairman Kim. This is the third major donation that KAIST has received this year following KAIST Development Foundation Chairman Soo-Young Lee’s ₩67.6 billion in real estate in July and another ₩10 billion from a KAIST alumnus, Chairman Byeong-Gyu Chang of Krafton, in January. “KAIST, as the cradle that trains Korea’s best talents in science and technology, has been at the forefront of leading national development over the past 50 years. I hope that KAIST will also strive to nurture global talents who excel in AI innovation and steer Korea’s new advancements to lead the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” said Honorary Chairman Kim during the donation ceremony at KAIST’s main campus in Daejeon. The ceremony was held in strict compliance with Level Two social distancing guidelines and measures in response to the persistent coronavirus. Less than 50 people, including Honorary Chairman Kim’s family, President Sung-Chul Shin, and professors from key posts at KAIST, attended the ceremony. Dongwon Group is one of the leading fishery companies in Korea, established in 1969 by Honorary Chairman Kim. He recalled memories of his childhood as he explained the background of the donation, saying, “When I was young, I searched for Korea’s future in the world’s oceans. However, a new future lies in the ‘oceans of data.’” “I have been pondering how I could further contribute to my country, and realized that bringing up talented individuals in the AI and data science-related fields is important. I hope that my donation today will aid the take-off of KAIST’s great voyage towards becoming a global “flagship” in the new eras to come,” Honorary Chairman Kim added. To this, President Shin responded acclaiming the noblesse oblige held by Honorary Chairman Kim to further develop Korea’s science and technology and make Korea into a leader in AI innovation. “We will always keep KAIST’s role and mission close to our hearts and do our best to make KAIST into a global hub for talent cultivation and R&D in AI, based on Honorary Chairman Kim’s donation,” said President Shin. With Honorary Chairman Kim’s donation, the KAIST GSAI will first expand its faculty in both quantity and quality. By expanding the number of full-time, highly qualified professors to 40 by 2030, the School will train the most talented personnel in fusion and convergence AI. The KAIST GSAI opened in August 2019 as the first school in Korea to be selected as part of the ‘2019 Graduate School for AI Support Project’ by the Ministry of Science and ICT. The current faculty is composed of 13 full-time professors including ex-researchers from AI labs of global conglomerates including Google, IBM Watson, and Microsoft, as well as eight adjunct professors, making a total of 21 faculty members. There are currently 138 students attending the School, including 79 master’s students, 17 in the integrated MS-PhD program, and 42 PhD candidates. (END)
KAIST and Google Partner to Develop AI Curriculum
Two KAIST professors, Hyun Wook Ka from the School of Transdisciplinary Studies and Young Jae Jang from the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, were recipients of Google Education Grants that will support the development of new AI courses integrating the latest industrial technology. This collaboration is part of the KAIST-Google Partnership, which was established in July 2019 with the goal of nurturing AI talent at KAIST. The two proposals -- Professor Ka’s ‘Cloud AI-Empowered Multimodal Data Analysis for Human Affect Detection and Recognition’ and Professor Jang’s ‘Learning Smart Factory with AI’-- were selected by the KAIST Graduate School of AI through a school-wide competition held in July. The proposals then went through a final review by Google and were accepted. The two professors will receive $7,500 each for developing AI courses using Google technology for one year. Professor Ka’s curriculum aims to provide a rich learning experience for students by providing basic knowledge on data science and AI and helping them obtain better problem solving and application skills using practical and interdisciplinary data science and AI technology. Professor Jang’s curriculum is designed to solve real-world manufacturing problems using AI and it will be field-oriented. Professor Jang has been managing three industry-academic collaboration centers in manufacturing and smart factories within KAIST and plans to develop his courses to go beyond theory and be centered on case studies for solving real-world manufacturing problems using AI. Professor Jang said, “Data is at the core of smart factories and AI education, but there is often not enough of it for the education to be effective. The KAIST Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory has a testbed for directly acquiring data generated from real semiconductor automation equipment, analyzing it, and applying algorithms, which enables truly effective smart factory and AI education.” KAIST signed a partnership with Google in July 2019 to foster global AI talent and is operating various programs to train AI experts and support excellent AI research for two years. The Google AI Focused Research Award supports world-class faculty performing cutting-edge research and was previously awarded to professors Sung Ju Hwang from the Graduate School of AI and Steven Whang from the School of Electrical Engineering along with Google Cloud Platform (GCP) credits. These two professors have been collaborating with Google teams since October 2018 and recently extended their projects to continue through 2021. In addition, a Google Ph.D. Fellowship was awarded to Taesik Gong from the School of Computing in October this year, and three Student Travel Grants were awarded to Sejun Park from the School of Electrical Engineering, Chulhyung Lee from the Department of Mathematical Sciences, and Sangyun Lee from the School of Computing earlier in March. Five students were also recommended for the Google Internship program in March. (END)
EPO: KAIST the 7th Leading Innovation Cluster Globally
A study published by the European Patent Office (EPO) shows that Korea is the second leading hub for technologies related to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. According to the study, Korea has the second highest innovation intensity for the Fourth Industrial Revolution worldwide with 526 international patent families (IPFs) per million inhabitants, after Finland (654) and well ahead of Japan (405) and the US (258). Korea specializes in IT hardware, power supply, smart goods and services. The study also reported that the contribution of universities and public research organizations in Korea is very high, standing at 12% compared to the world average of 5.6%. Among others, ETRI (Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute) topped the universities and public research organizations globally with filings of over 1,500 IPFs between 2010 and 2018. KAIST ranks the 7th with filings of 185, ahead of MIT (179). The EPO released its study titled 'Patents and the Fourth Industrial Revolution: the Global Technology Trends Enabling the Data-Driven Economy' on December 10. It analyzed all IPFs related to the Fourth Industrial Revolution worldwide between 2000 and 2018. The study found that nearly 40,000 new IPFs were filed for these technologies in 2018 alone. This means they accounted for more than 10% of all patenting activity worldwide that year. The analysis also showed that Seoul was the world’s most important cluster for Fourth Industrial Revolution patenting activity, accounting for almost 10% of all patents in this field worldwide, growing by 22.7% on average per year between 2010 and 2018, the third highest growth rate of the top 20 clusters. The cluster represented 86% of all Fourth Industrial Revolution patenting activities in Korea. Samsung and LG had a combined share of two-thirds of the cluster’s patent filings, while another 15% was contributed by ETRI. In the industry sector, Samsung was the clear global leader with over 12,000 IPFs, which corresponds to 4.6% of all Fourth Industrial Revolution inventions between 2000 and 2018. Samsung is followed, albeit by a wide gap of almost 6,000 IPFs filed, by Sony (6,401), and the second Korean company, LG, in third place (6,290). The patent analysis in this report is based on IPFs. Each IPF represents a unique invention and includes patent applications filed and published in at least two countries or filed with and published by a regional patent office, as well as published international patent applications. The EPO, headquartered in Munich, Germany, is one of the largest patent offices in the world and the leading authority on patent information and searching. (END)
Mystery Solved with Math: Cytoplasmic Traffic Jam Disrupts Sleep-Wake Cycles
KAIST mathematicians and their collaborators at Florida State University have identified the principle of how aging and diseases like dementia and obesity cause sleep disorders. A combination of mathematical modelling and experiments demonstrated that the cytoplasmic congestion caused by aging, dementia, and/or obesity disrupts the circadian rhythms in the human body and leads to irregular sleep-wake cycles. This finding suggests new treatment strategies for addressing unstable sleep-wake cycles. Human bodies adjust sleep schedules in accordance with the ‘circadian rhythms’, which are regulated by our time keeping system, the ‘circadian clock’. This clock tells our body when to rest by generating the 24-hour rhythms of a protein called PERIOD (PER) (See Figure 1). The amount of the PER protein increases for half of the day and then decreases for the remaining half. The principle is that the PER protein accumulating in the cytoplasm for several hours enters the cell nucleus all at once, hindering the transcription of PER genes and thereby reducing the amount of PER. However, it has remained a mystery how thousands of PER molecules can simultaneously enter into the nucleus in a complex cell environment where a variety of materials co-exist and can interfere with the motion of PER. This would be like finding a way for thousands of employees from all over New York City to enter an office building at the same time every day. A group of researchers led by Professor Jae Kyoung Kim from the KAIST Department of Mathematical Sciences solved the mystery by developing a spatiotemporal and probabilistic model that describes the motion of PER molecules in a cell environment. This study was conducted in collaboration with Professor Choogon Lee’s group from Florida State University, where the experiments were carried out, and the results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) last month. The joint research team’s spatial stochastic model (See Figure 2) described the motion of PER molecules in cells and demonstrated that the PER molecule should be sufficiently condensed around the cell nucleus to be phosphorylated simultaneously and enter the nucleus together (See Figure 3 Left). Thanks to this phosphorylation synchronization switch, thousands of PER molecules can enter the nucleus at the same time every day and maintain stable circadian rhythms. However, when aging and/or diseases including dementia and obesity cause the cytoplasm to become congested with increased cytoplasmic obstacles such as protein aggregates and fat vacuoles, it hinders the timely condensation of PER molecules around the cell nucleus (See Figure 3 Right). As a result, the phosphorylation synchronization switch does not work and PER proteins enter into the nucleus at irregular times, making the circadian rhythms and sleep-wake cycles unstable, the study revealed. Professor Kim said, “As a mathematician, I am excited to help enable the advancement of new treatment strategies that can improve the lives of so many patients who suffer from irregular sleep-wake cycles. Taking these findings as an opportunity, I hope to see more active interchanges of ideas and collaboration between mathematical and biological sciences.” This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation in the US, and the International Human Frontiers Science Program Organization and the National Research Foundation of Korea. Publication: Beesley, S. and Kim, D. W, et al. (2020) Wake-sleep cycles are severely disrupted by diseases affecting cytoplasmic homeostasis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Vol. 117, No. 45, 28402-28411. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2003524117 Profile: Jae Kyoung Kim, Ph.D. Associate Professor email@example.com http://mathsci.kaist.ac.kr/~jaekkim @umichkim on Twitter Department of Mathematical Sciences Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) Daejeon, Republic of Korea Profile: Choogon Lee, Ph.D. Associate Professor firstname.lastname@example.org https://med.fsu.edu/biosci/lee-lab Department of Biomedical Sciences Florida State University Florida, USA (END)
A Comprehensive Review of Biosynthesis of Inorganic Nanomaterials Using Microorganisms and Bacteriophages
There are diverse methods for producing numerous inorganic nanomaterials involving many experimental variables. Among the numerous possible matches, finding the best pair for synthesizing in an environmentally friendly way has been a longstanding challenge for researchers and industries. A KAIST bioprocess engineering research team led by Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee conducted a summary of 146 biosynthesized single and multi-element inorganic nanomaterials covering 55 elements in the periodic table synthesized using wild-type and genetically engineered microorganisms. Their research highlights the diverse applications of biogenic nanomaterials and gives strategies for improving the biosynthesis of nanomaterials in terms of their producibility, crystallinity, size, and shape. The research team described a 10-step flow chart for developing the biosynthesis of inorganic nanomaterials using microorganisms and bacteriophages. The research was published at Nature Review Chemistry as a cover and hero paper on December 3. “We suggest general strategies for microbial nanomaterial biosynthesis via a step-by-step flow chart and give our perspectives on the future of nanomaterial biosynthesis and applications. This flow chart will serve as a general guide for those wishing to prepare biosynthetic inorganic nanomaterials using microbial cells,” explained Dr.Yoojin Choi, a co-author of this research. Most inorganic nanomaterials are produced using physical and chemical methods and biological synthesis has been gaining more and more attention. However, conventional synthesis processes have drawbacks in terms of high energy consumption and non-environmentally friendly processes. Meanwhile, microorganisms such as microalgae, yeasts, fungi, bacteria, and even viruses can be utilized as biofactories to produce single and multi-element inorganic nanomaterials under mild conditions. After conducting a massive survey, the research team summed up that the development of genetically engineered microorganisms with increased inorganic-ion-binding affinity, inorganic-ion-reduction ability, and nanomaterial biosynthetic efficiency has enabled the synthesis of many inorganic nanomaterials. Among the strategies, the team introduced their analysis of a Pourbaix diagram for controlling the size and morphology of a product. The research team said this Pourbaix diagram analysis can be widely employed for biosynthesizing new nanomaterials with industrial applications.Professor Sang Yup Lee added, “This research provides extensive information and perspectives on the biosynthesis of diverse inorganic nanomaterials using microorganisms and bacteriophages and their applications. We expect that biosynthetic inorganic nanomaterials will find more diverse and innovative applications across diverse fields of science and technology.” Dr. Choi started this research in 2018 and her interview about completing this extensive research was featured in an article at Nature Career article on December 4. -ProfileDistinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee email@example.comMetabolic &Biomolecular Engineering National Research Laboratoryhttp://mbel.kaist.ac.krDepartment of Chemical and Biomolecular EngineeringKAIST
Team USRG’s Winning Streak Continues at the AI Grand Challenge
Team USRG (Unmanned Systems Research Group) led by Professor Hyunchul Shim from the School of Electrical Engineering has won the AI Grand Challenge 2020 held on Nov. 23 at Kintex in Ilsan, Kyonggi-do for the second consecutive year. The team received 7.7 million KRW in research funding from the Ministry of Science and ICT, the organizer of the challenge. The team took a little over two minutes to complete the rescue operation mission of the challenge. The mission included swerving around seven obstacles, airdropping an aid package, and safely landing after identifying the landing spot. Their drone is the only one that successfully passed through a 10-meter tunnel out of five pre-qualified teams: three from universities and two from companies. The AI Grand Challenge, which began in 2017, was designed to promote AI technology and its applications for addressing high-risk technical challenges, especially for conducting complex disaster relief operations. For autonomous flying drones, swerving to avoid objects has always been an essential skill and a big challenge. For their flawless performance in the rescue operation, the team loaded an AI algorithm and upgraded their drone by improving the LiDAR-based localization system and a stronger propulsion system to carry more sensors. The drone weighs 2.4 kg and carries a small yet powerful computer with a GPU. This AI-powered drone can complete rescue missions more efficiently in complicated and disastrous environments by precisely comprehending where the drone should go without needing GPS. The team also designed an all-in-one prop guard and installed a gripper onto the bottom of the drone to hold the aid package securely. “We tried hard to improve our localization system better to resolve issues we had in the previous event,” said Professor Shim. Two PhD candidates, Han-Sob Lee and Bo-Sung Kim played a critical role in developing this drone. After their two-year winning streak, their prize money now totals 2.4 billion KRW, equivalent to the winning prize of the DARPA Challenge. As the winning team, they will collaborate with other champions at the AI track challenge to develop rescue mission technology for a more complex environment. “The importance of AI technology is continuing to grow and the government is providing large amounts of funding for research in this field. We would like to develop very competitive technology that will work in the real world,” Professor Shim added. His group is investigating a wide array of AI technologies applicable to unmanned vehicles including indoor flying drones, self-driving cars, delivery robots, and a tram that circles the campus.
Three Professors Named to Highly Cited Researchers 2020 List
Distinguished Professor Sukbok Chang from the Department of Chemistry, Distinguished Professor Sang-Yup Lee from the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, and Professor Jiyong Eom from the College of Business were named to Clarivate’s Highly Cited Researchers 2020 list. Clarivate announced the researchers who rank in the top 1% of citations by field and publication year in the Web of Science citation index. A total of 6,167 researchers from more than 60 countries were listed this year and 37 Korean scholars made the list. The methodology that determines the “Who’s Who” of influential researchers draws on data and analyses performed by bibliometric experts and data scientists at the Institute for Scientific Information at Clarivate. It also uses the tallies to identify the countries and research institutions where these scientific elite are based. More than 6,000 researchers from 21 fields in the sciences, social sciences, and cross field categories were selected based on the number of highly cited papers they produced over an 11-year period from January 2009 to December 2019. Professor Chang made the list six years in a row, while Professor Lee made it for four consecutive years, and Professor Eom for the last two years. Professor Chang’s group (http://sbchang.kaist.ac.kr) investigates catalytic hydrocarbon functionalization. Professor Lee (http://mbel.kaist.ac.kr) is a pioneering scholar in the field of metabolic engineering, systems, and synthetic biology. Professor Eom’s (https://kaistceps.quv.kr) research extends to energy and environmental economics and management, energy big data, and green information systems.
Simulations Open a New Way to Reverse Cell Aging
Turning off a newly identified enzyme could reverse a natural aging process in cells. Research findings by a KAIST team provide insight into the complex mechanism of cellular senescence and present a potential therapeutic strategy for reducing age-related diseases associated with the accumulation of senescent cells. Simulations that model molecular interactions have identified an enzyme that could be targeted to reverse a natural aging process called cellular senescence. The findings were validated with laboratory experiments on skin cells and skin equivalent tissues, and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). “Our research opens the door for a new generation that perceives aging as a reversible biological phenomenon,” says Professor Kwang-Hyun Cho of the Department of Bio and Brain engineering at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), who led the research with colleagues from KAIST and Amorepacific Corporation in Korea. Cells respond to a variety of factors, such as oxidative stress, DNA damage, and shortening of the telomeres capping the ends of chromosomes, by entering a stable and persistent exit from the cell cycle. This process, called cellular senescence, is important, as it prevents damaged cells from proliferating and turning into cancer cells. But it is also a natural process that contributes to aging and age-related diseases. Recent research has shown that cellular senescence can be reversed. But the laboratory approaches used thus far also impair tissue regeneration or have the potential to trigger malignant transformations. Professor Cho and his colleagues used an innovative strategy to identify molecules that could be targeted for reversing cellular senescence. The team pooled together information from the literature and databases about the molecular processes involved in cellular senescence. To this, they added results from their own research on the molecular processes involved in the proliferation, quiescence (a non-dividing cell that can re-enter the cell cycle) and senescence of skin fibroblasts, a cell type well known for repairing wounds. Using algorithms, they developed a model that simulates the interactions between these molecules. Their analyses allowed them to predict which molecules could be targeted to reverse cell senescence. They then investigated one of the molecules, an enzyme called PDK1, in incubated senescent skin fibroblasts and three-dimensional skin equivalent tissue models. They found that blocking PDK1 led to the inhibition of two downstream signalling molecules, which in turn restored the cells’ ability to enter back into the cell cycle. Notably, the cells retained their capacity to regenerate wounded skin without proliferating in a way that could lead to malignant transformation. The scientists recommend investigations are next done in organs and organisms to determine the full effect of PDK1 inhibition. Since the gene that codes for PDK1 is overexpressed in some cancers, the scientists expect that inhibiting it will have both anti-aging and anti-cancer effects. -Profile Professor Kwang-Hyun Cho Laboratory for Systems Biology and Bio-Inspired Engineering http://sbie.kaist.ac.kr Department of Bio and Brain Engineering KAIST
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