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A Korean research team develops a new clinical candidate for fatty liver disease
A team of Korean researchers have succeeded in developing a new drug candidate for the treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) acting on peripheral tissues. To date, there has not been an optimal treatment for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), and this discovery is expected to set the grounds for the development of new drugs that can safely suppress both liver fat accumulation and liver fibrosis at the same time. A joint research team led by Professor Jin Hee Ahn from Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST) and Professor Hail Kim from the KAIST Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering developed a new chemical that can suppress disease-specific protein (HTR2A) through years of basic research. The team also revealed to have verified its efficacy and safety through preclinical tests (animal tests) at JD Bioscience Inc., a start-up company founded by Professor Ahn. Although NAFLD has a prevalence rate as high as 20-30%, and about 5% of the global adult population suffers from NASH, there are no commercial drugs targeting them to date. NAFLD is a chronic disease that starts from the fatty liver and progresses into steatohepatitis, fibrosis, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. The mortality rate of patients increases with accompanied cardiovascular diseases and liver-related complications, and appropriate treatment in the early stage is hence necessary. < Figure 1. Strategy and history of 5HT2A antagonists. Library and rational design for the development of compound 11c as a potent 5HT2A antagonist. Previous research efforts were discontinued due to limited oral absorption and safety. A therapeutic candidate to overcome this problem was identified and phase 1 clinical trials are currently in progress. > The new synthetic chemical developed by the joint GIST-KAIST research is an innovative drug candidate that shows therapeutic effects on NASH based on a dual action mechanism that inhibits the accumulation of fat in the liver and liver fibrosis by suppressing the serotonin receptor protein 5HT2A. The research team confirmed its therapeutic effects in animal models for NAFLD and NASH, in which hepatic steatosis and liver fibrosis* caused by fat accumulation in the liver were suppressed simultaneously by 50-70%. *fibrosis: stiffening of parts of the liver, also used as a major indicator to track the prognosis of steatosis The research team explained that the material was designed with optimal polarity and lipid affinity to minimize its permeability across the blood-brain barrier. It therefore does not affect the brain, and causes little side effects in the central nervous system (CNS) such as depression and suicidal ideations, while demonstrating excellent inhibition on its target protein present in tissues outside brain (IC50* = 14 nM). The team also demonstrated its superior efficacy in improving liver fibrosis when compared to similar drugs in the phase 3 clinical trial. *IC50 (half maximal inhibitory concentration): the concentration at which a chemical suppresses 50% of a particular biological function < Figure 2. GM-60106 (11c)'s effect on obesity: When GM-60106 was administered to an obese animal model (mice) for 2 months, body weight, body fat mass, and blood sugar were significantly reduced (a-d). In addition, the steatohepatitis level (NAFLD Activity Score) and the expression of genes of the treated mice involved in adipogenesis along with blood/liver fat decreased (e-h) > Based on the pharmacological data obtained through preclinical trials, the team evaluated the effects of the drug on 88 healthy adults as part of their phase 1 clinical trial, where the side effects and the safe dosage of a drug are tested against healthy adults. Results showed no serious side effects and a good level of drug safety. In addition, a preliminary efficacy evaluation on eight adults with steatohepatitis is currently underway. Professor Jin Hee Ahn said, “The aim of this research is to develop a treatment for NASH with little side effects and guaranteed safety by developing a new target. The developed chemical is currently going through phase 1 of the global clinical trial in Australia through JD Bioscience Inc., a bio venture company for innovative drug development.” he added, “The candidate material the research team is currently developing shows not only a high level of safety and preventative effects by suppressing fat accumulation in the liver, but also a direct therapeutic effect on liver fibrosis. This is a strength that distinguishes our material from other competing drugs.” < Figure 3. Efficacy of GM-60106 (11c) on liver fibrosis: When GM-60106 was administered to a steatohepatitis model (mice) for 3 months, the expression of genes associated with tissue fibrosis was significantly reduced (b-c). As a result of a detailed analysis of the tissues of the animal model, it was confirmed that the rate of tissue fibrosis was reduced and the expression rate of genes related to tissue fibrosis and inflammation was also significantly reduced (e-h). > Professor Hail Kim from KAIST said, “Until now, this disease did not have a method of treatment other than weight control, and there has been no attempt to develop a drug that can be used for non-obese patients.” He added, “Through this research, we look forward to the development of various treatment techniques targeting a range of metabolic diseases including NASH that do not affect the weight of the patient.” This study, conducted together by the research teams led by Professor Ahn from GIST and Professor Kim from KAIST, as well as the research team from JD Bioscience Inc., was supported by the Ministry of Science and ICT, and the National New Drug Development Project. The results of this research were published by Nature Communications on January 20. The team also presented the results of their clinical study on the candidate material coded GM-60106 targeting metabolic abnormality-related MASH* at NASH-TAG Conference 2024, which was held in Utah for three days starting on January 4, which was selected as an excellent abstract. *MASH (Metabolic Dysfunction-Associated Steatohepatitis): new replacement term for NASH
KAIST Offers Hope to Musicians with Dystonia
< Photo 1. Conductor and Pianist João Carlos Martins before the Recital at the Carnegie Hall preparing with his bionic gloves > KAIST’s neuroscientist and professor, Dr. Daesoo Kim attended the “Conference for Musicians with Dystonia” supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Carnegie Hall concert of legendary pianist João Carlos Martins, who is also a dystonia patient, to announce his team’s recent advancements toward finding a cure for dystonia. On November 19, 2022, a “miracle concert” was held in Carnegie Hall. João Carlos Martins was a renowned world-class pianist in the 70s and 80s, but he had to put an end to his musical career due to focal dystonia in his fingers. But in 2020, he began using a bionic glove developed by industrial designer Ubiratã Bizarro Costa and after years of hard work he was back in Carnegie Hall as an 82-year-old man. During the concert, he conducted the NOVUS NY orchestra in a performance of Bach, and later even played the piano himself. In particular, between his performances, he gave shout-outs to scientists studying dystonia including KAIST Professor Daesoo Kim, asking them to continue working towards curing rare diseases for musicians. < Photo 2. Professor Daesoo Kim with Conductor and Pianist João Carlos Martins > Musician’s dystonia affects 1-3% of musicians around the world and musicians make up approximately 5% of the total number of dystonia patients. Musicians who are no longer able to practice music due to the disease often experience stress and depression, which may even lead to suicide in extreme cases. Musicians are known to be particularly prone to such diseases due to excessive practice regimens, perfectionism, and even genetics. Currently, botulinum toxin (Botox) is used to suppress abnormal muscles, but muscle function suppression ultimately means that the musician is no longer able to play the instrument. João Carlos Martins himself underwent several Botox procedures and three brain surgeries, but saw no therapeutic results. This is why a new treatment was necessary. Professor Daesoo Kim’s research team at KAIST took note of the fact that abnormal muscle tension is caused by excessive stress, and developed NT-1, a treatment that blocks the development of the symptoms of dystonia from the brain, allowing patients to use their muscles as they normally would. The research team published their findings in Science Advances in 2021, and João Carlos Martins invited Professor Daesoo Kim to the UN conference and his concert after reading this paper. < Photo 3. Professor Daesoo Kim (3rd from the left) photographed with other guests at the recital including Dr. Dévora Kestel, the Director of the Mental Health and Substance Use at WHO, sharing the center with Conductor and Pianist João Carlos Martins > During the UN conference held the day prior to the Carnegie Hall concert, Dr. Dévora Kestel, Director of the Mental Health and Substance Use at WHO, said, “Although dystonia is not as well-known, it is a common disease around the world, and needs our society’s attention and the devotion of many researchers.” Professor Daesoo Kim said, “NT-1 is a drug that blocks the cause of dystonia in the brain, and will allow musicians to continue practicing music. We aim to attain clinical approval in Korea by 2024.” NT-1 is currently under development by NeuroTobe, a faculty-led start-up company at KAIST, headed by Professor Daesoo Kim as the CEO. The synthesis of the drug for clinical testing has been successfully completed, and it has shown excellent efficacy and safety through various rounds of animal testing. Unlike Botox, which takes a few days to show its therapeutic effects after receiving the procedure from a hospital, NT-1 shows its therapeutic effects within an hour after taking it. As a so-called “edible Botox”, it is expected to help treat various muscular diseases and ailments.
KAIST Team Develops Surface-Lighting MicroLED Patch with Significant Melanogenesis Inhibition Effect
A KAIST research team led by Ph.d candidate Jae Hee Lee and Professor Keon Jae Lee from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering has developed a surface-lighting microLED patch for UV-induced melanogenesis inhibition. Melanin is brown or dark pigments existing in the skin, which can be abnormally synthesized by external UV or stress. Since the excessive melanin leads to skin diseases such as spots and freckles, proper treatment is required to return normal skin condition. Recently, LED-based photo-stimulators have been released for skin care, however, their therapeutic effect is still controversial. Since conventional LED stimulators cannot conformally attach to the human skin, distance-induced side effects are caused by light loss and high heat transfer. To achieve effective phototreatment, the LED stimulator needs to be irradiated in contact with the human skin surface, enabling proper and uniform light deliver to the dermis with minimal optical loss. In this work, the research team fabricated skin-attachable surface-lighting microLED (SµLED, 4 × 4 cm2) patch by utilizing a thousand of microLED chips and silica-embedded light diffusion layer. 100 µm-sized LED chips are vertically-interconnected for high flexibility and low heat generation, allowing its long-term operation on the human skin. < Image 1. The overall concept of SµLED patch. a) SµLED patch operated on the human skin. b) Schematic illustration of SµLED patch structure. c) 4 × 4 cm2-sized SµLED patch. d) Schematic illustration of the advantages of SµLED patch such as efficient light delivery, low heat generation, and surface-lighting irradiation. > The research team confirmed melanogenesis inhibition by irradiating the SµLED patch and the conventional LED (CLED) on the artificial human skin and mice dorsal skin. The SµLED-treated groups of human cells and mouse tissues showed minimal epidermal photo-toxicity and consistently effective reduction in synthesized melanin, compared to CLED-treated groups. In addition, significant suppression of proteins/catalysts expression involved in melanin synthesis such as MITF (microphthalmia-associated transcription factor), Melan-A and tyrosinase was verified. < Image 2. The efficacy of melanogenesis inhibition on 3D human skin cells. a). Different irradiation conditions for a-MSH (major factor to stimulate melanin synthesis) treated cells. b) The ratio of pigmented area to total epidermis area. c) Relative variance of melanin level in 1 cm2-sized skin cells. A low variance means that melanin is evenly distributed, and a high variance means that the melanin is irregularly distributed. d) Optical images after in vitro experiments for 12 days. Scale bar, 1cm. e) Histological analysis of 3D skin, showing the greatest reduction in melanin after SµLED irradiation. Scale bar, 20 µm. > < Image 3. The efficacy of melanogenesis inhibition on mouse dorsal skin. a) Optical images of mice dorsal skin after photo-treatment for 20 days. b) Histological analysis of mice dorsal skin. Less brown color means less expression of protein/catalysis involved in melanin synthesis. Scale bar, 50 µm. > Prof. Keon Jae Lee said, “Our inorganic-based SµLED patch has outstanding characteristics in light efficiency, reliability, and durability. The SµLED patch is expected to give a great impact on the cosmetic field by reducing side effects and maximizing phototherapeutic effects.” The core technology of cosmetic SµLED has been transferred to Fronics co., Ltd, founded by Prof. Lee. Fronics is building foundry and equipment for mass production of SµLED masks for whole face cover and plans to release the products in March next year. This paper entitled “Wearable Surface-Lighting Micro-Light-Emitting Diode Patch for Melanogenesis Inhibition” was published in the November 2022 issue of Advanced Healthcare Materials.
Identification of How Chemotherapy Drug Works Could Deliver Personalized Cancer Treatment
The chemotherapy drug decitabine is commonly used to treat patients with blood cancers, but its response rate is somewhat low. Researchers have now identified why this is the case, opening the door to more personalized cancer therapies for those with these types of cancers, and perhaps further afield. Researchers have identified the genetic and molecular mechanisms within cells that make the chemotherapy drug decitabine—used to treat patients with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML) —work for some patients but not others. The findings should assist clinicians in developing more patient-specific treatment strategies. The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science on March 30. The chemotherapy drug decitabine, also known by its brand name Dacogen, works by modifying our DNA that in turn switches on genes that stop the cancer cells from growing and replicating. However, decitabine’s response rate is somewhat low (showing improvement in just 30-35% of patients), which leaves something of a mystery as to why it works well for some patients but not for others. To find out why this happens, researchers from the KAIST investigated the molecular mediators that are involved with regulating the effects of the drug. Decitabine works to activate the production of endogenous retroviruses (ERVs), which in turn induces an immune response. ERVs are viruses that long ago inserted dormant copies of themselves into the human genome. Decitabine in essence, ‘reactivates’ these viral elements and produces double-stranded RNAs (dsRNAs) that the immune system views as a foreign body. “However, the mechanisms involved in this process, in particular how production and transport of these ERV dsRNAs were regulated within the cell were understudied,” said corresponding author Yoosik Kim, professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at KAIST. “So to explain why decitabine works in some patients but not others, we investigated what these molecular mechanisms were,” added Kim. To do so, the researchers used image-based RNA interference (RNAi) screening. This is a relatively new technique in which specific sequences within a genome are knocked out of action or “downregulated.” Large-scale screening, which can be performed in cultured cells or within live organisms, works to investigate the function of different genes. The KAIST researchers collaborated with the Institut Pasteur Korea to analyze the effect of downregulating genes that recognize ERV dsRNAs and could be involved in the cellular response to decitabine. From these initial screening results, they performed an even more detailed downregulation screening analysis. Through the screening, they were able to identify two particular gene sequences involved in the production of an RNA-binding protein called Staufen1 and the production of a strand of RNA that does not in turn produce any proteins called TINCR that play a key regulatory role in response to the drug. Staufen1 binds directly to dsRNAs and stabilizes them in concert with the TINCR. If a patient is not producing sufficient Staufen1 and TINCR, then the dsRNA viral mimics quickly degrade before the immune system can spot them. And, crucially for cancer therapy, this means that patients with lower expression (activation) of these sequences will show inferior response to decitabine. Indeed, the researchers confirmed that MDS/AML patients with low Staufen1 and TINCR expression did not benefit from decitabine therapy. “We can now isolate patients who will not benefit from the therapy and direct them to a different type of therapy,” said first author Yongsuk Ku. “This serves as an important step toward developing a patient-specific treatment cancer strategy.” As the researchers used patient samples taken from bone marrow, the next step will be to try to develop a testing method that can identify the problem from just blood samples, which are much easier to acquire from patients. The team plans to investigate if the analysis can be extended to patients with solid tumors in addition to those with blood cancers. -Profile Professor Yoosik Kim https://qcbio.kaist.ac.kr/ Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering KAIST -Publication Noncanonical immune response to the inhibition of DNA methylation by Staufen1 via stabilization of endogenous retrovirus RNAs, PNAS
What Fuels a “Domino Effect” in Cancer Drug Resistance?
KAIST researchers have identified mechanisms that relay prior acquired resistance to the first-line chemotherapy to the second-line targeted therapy, fueling a “domino effect” in cancer drug resistance. Their study featured in the February 7 edition of Science Advances suggests a new strategy for improving the second-line setting of cancer treatment for patients who showed resistance to anti-cancer drugs. Resistance to cancer drugs is often managed in the clinic by chemotherapy and targeted therapy. Unlike chemotherapy that works by repressing fast-proliferating cells, targeted therapy blocks a single oncogenic pathway to halt tumor growth. In many cases, targeted therapy is engaged as a maintenance therapy or employed in the second-line after front-line chemotherapy. A team of researchers led by Professor Yoosik Kim from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and the KAIST Institute for Health Science and Technology (KIHST) has discovered an unexpected resistance signature that occurs between chemotherapy and targeted therapy. The team further identified a set of integrated mechanisms that promotes this kind of sequential therapy resistance. “There have been multiple clinical accounts reflecting that targeted therapies tend to be least successful in patients who have exhausted all standard treatments,” said the first author of the paper Mark Borris D. Aldonza. He continued, “These accounts ignited our hypothesis that failed responses to some chemotherapies might speed up the evolution of resistance to other drugs, particularly those with specific targets.” Aldonza and his colleagues extracted large amounts of drug-resistance information from the open-source database the Genomics of Drug Sensitivity in Cancer (GDSC), which contains thousands of drug response data entries from various human cancer cell lines. Their big data analysis revealed that cancer cell lines resistant to chemotherapies classified as anti-mitotic drugs (AMDs), toxins that inhibit overacting cell division, are also resistant to a class of targeted therapies called epidermal growth factor receptor-tyrosine kinase inhibitors (EGFR-TKIs). In all of the cancer types analyzed, more than 84 percent of those resistant to AMDs, representatively ‘paclitaxel’, were also resistant to at least nine EGFR-TKIs. In lung, pancreatic, and breast cancers where paclitaxel is often used as a first-line, standard-of-care regimen, greater than 92 percent showed resistance to EGFR-TKIs. Professor Kim said, “It is surprising to see that such collateral resistance can occur specifically between two chemically different classes of drugs.” To figure out how failed responses to paclitaxel leads to resistance to EGFR-TKIs, the team validated co-resistance signatures that they found in the database by generating and analyzing a subset of slow-doubling, paclitaxel-resistant cancer models called ‘persisters’. The results demonstrated that paclitaxel-resistant cancers remodel their stress response by first becoming more stem cell-like, evolving the ability to self-renew to adapt to more stressful conditions like drug exposures. More surprisingly, when the researchers characterized the metabolic state of the cells, EGFR-TKI persisters derived from paclitaxel-resistant cancer cells showed high dependencies to energy-producing processes such as glycolysis and glutaminolysis. “We found that, without an energy stimulus like glucose, these cells transform to becoming more senescent, a characteristic of cells that have arrested cell division. However, this senescence is controlled by stem cell factors, which the paclitaxel-resistant cancers use to escape from this arrested state given a favorable condition to re-grow,” said Aldonza. Professor Kim explained, “Before this research, there was no reason to expect that acquiring the cancer stem cell phenotype that dramatically leads to a cascade of changes in cellular states affecting metabolism and cell death is linked with drug-specific sequential resistance between two classes of therapies.” He added, “The expansion of our work to other working models of drug resistance in a much more clinically-relevant setting, perhaps in clinical trials, will take on increasing importance, as sequential treatment strategies will continue to be adapted to various forms of anti-cancer therapy regimens.” This study was supported by the Basic Science Research Program of the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2016R1C1B2009886), and the KAIST Future Systems Healthcare Project (KAISTHEALTHCARE42) funded by the Korean Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT). Undergraduate student Aldonza participated in this research project and presented the findings as the lead author as part of the Undergraduate Research Participation (URP) Program at KAIST. < Figure 1. Schematic overview of the study. > < Figure 2. Big data analysis revealing co-resistance signatures between classes of anti-cancer drugs. > Publication: Aldonza et al. (2020) Prior acquired resistance to paclitaxel relays diverse EGFR-targeted therapy persistence mechanisms. Science Advances, Vol. 6, No. 6, eaav7416. Available online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aav7416 Profile: Prof. Yoosik Kim, MA, PhD firstname.lastname@example.org https://qcbio.kaist.ac.kr/ Assistant Professor Bio Network Analysis Laboratory Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) http://kaist.ac.kr Daejeon, Republic of Korea Profile: Mark Borris D. Aldonza email@example.com Undergraduate Student Department of Biological Sciences Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) http://kaist.ac.kr Daejeon, Republic of Korea (END)
First Korean Member of OceanObs' Organizing Committee
Professor Sung Yong Kim from the Department of Mechanical Engineering became the first Korean to be elected as an organizing committee member of the international conference OceanObs’19’, specializing in the ocean observing field. Professor Kim has been actively engaged in advisory panels, technical committees, and working groups for the North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES). Through numerous activities, he was recognized for his professionalism and academic achievements, which led him to be appointed as a member of the organizing committee. The organizing committee is comprised of leading scholars and researchers from 20 countries, and Professor Kim will be the first Korean scientist to participate on the committee. Since 1999, the conference has been held every decade. Global experts specializing in oceanic observation gather to discuss research directions for the next ten years by monitoring physical, biological, and chemical variables in regional, national, and global oceans and applying marine engineering. This year, approximately 20 institutes including NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the European Space Agency will support funds as well as high-tech equipment to the conference. This year’s conference theme is the governance of global ocean observing systems such as underwater gliders, unmanned vehicles, remote sensing, and observatories. The conference will hold discussions on monitoring technology and information systems to ensure human safety as well as to develop and preserve food resources. Additionally, participants will explore ways to expand observational infrastructures and carry out multidisciplinary approaches. There will also be collaborations with the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) and the Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans (POGO) to organize ocean observing programs and discuss priorities. Finally, they will set a long-term plan for solving major scientific issues, such as climate change, ocean acidification, energy, and marine pollution. Professor Kim said, “Based on the outcomes drawn from the conference, I will carry out research on natural disasters and climate change monitoring by using unmanned observing systems. I will also encourage more multidisciplinary research in this field.”
Professor Jinah Park Received the Prime Minister's Award
Professor Jinah Park of the School of Computing received the Prime Minister’s Citation Ribbon on April 21 at a ceremony celebrating the Day of Science and ICT. The awardee was selected by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning and Korea Communications Commission. Professor Park was recognized for her convergence R&D of a VR simulator for dental treatment with haptic feedback, in addition to her research on understanding 3D interaction behavior in VR environments. Her major academic contributions are in the field of medical imaging, where she developed a computational technique to analyze cardiac motion from tagging data. Professor Park said she was very pleased to see her twenty-plus years of research on ways to converge computing into medical areas finally bear fruit. She also thanked her colleagues and students in her Computer Graphics and CGV Research Lab for working together to make this achievement possible.
Anti-Cancer Therapy Delivering Drug to an Entire Tumor Developed
KAIST’s Department of Bio and Brain Engineering Professor Ji-Ho Park and his team successfully developed a new highly efficacious anti-cancer nanotechnology by delivering anti-cancer drugs uniformly to an entire tumor. Their research results were published in Nano Letters online on March 31, 2015. To treat inoperable tumors, anti-cancer medicine is commonly used. However, efficient drug delivery to tumor cells is often difficult, treating an entire tumor with drugs even more so. Using the existing drug delivery systems, including nanotechnology, a drug can be delivered only to tumor cells near blood vessels, leaving cells at the heart of a tumor intact. Since most drugs are injected into the bloodstream, tumor recurrence post medication is frequent. Therefore, the team used liposomes that can fuse to the cell membrane and enter the cell. Once inside liposomes the drug can travel into the bloodstream, enter tumor cells near blood vessels, where they are loaded to exosomes, which are naturally occurring nanoparticles in the body. Since exosomes can travel between cells, the drug can be delivered efficiently into inner cells of the tumor. Exosomes, which are secreted by cells that exist in the tumor microenvironment, is known to have an important role in tumor progression and metastasis since they transfer biological materials between cells. The research team started the investigation recognizing the possibility of delivering the anti-cancer drug to the entire tumor using exosomes. The team injected the light-sensitive anti-cancer drug using their new delivery technique into experimental mice. The researchers applied light to the tumor site to activate the anti-cancer treatment and analyzed a tissue sample. They observed the effects of the anti-cancer drug in the entire tumor tissue. The team’s results establish a ground-breaking foothold in drug delivery technology development that can be tailored to specific diseases by understanding its microenvironment. The work paves the way to more effective drug delivery systems for many chronic diseases, including cancer tumors that were difficult to treat due to the inability to penetrate deep into the tissue. The team is currently conducting experiments with other anti-cancer drugs, which are being developed by pharmaceutical companies, using their tumor-penetrating drug delivery nanotechnology, to identify its effects on malignant tumors. Professor Park said, “This research is the first to apply biological nanoparticles, exosomes that are continuously secreted and can transfer materials to neighboring cells, to deliver drugs directly to the heart of tumor.” Picture: Incorporation of hydrophilic and hydrophobic compounds into membrane vesicles by engineering the parental cells via synthetic liposomes.
KAIST Establishes a Center for Human Rights and Ethics
KAIST hosted an opening ceremony on November 27, 2014 for its Center for Human Rights and Ethics (CHRE) located in the Education Support Building on campus. President Steve Kang and other senior administrators participated in the ceremony, pledging to eliminate violence, corruption, and prejudice on the campus. The CHRE was created to provide members of the KAIST community with one-stop service to report and process human rights violation cases and issues related to corruption and illegalities such as verbal abuse, physical assault, sexual harassment, and bribes. The center will also launch campaigns to promote and strengthen awareness of human rights and ethics within the university. The Director of CHRE, Professor Young-hee Kim of the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at KAIST said, “The center will serve an important role in the improvement of human rights and in the reestablishment of moral standards in KAIST. I hope KAIST members make the most of the center wherever they face injustice and unequal treatment during their study and work at the campus.”
Mechanism in regulation of cancer-related key enzyme, ATM, for DNA damage and repair revealed
Professor Kwang-Wook Choi A research team led by Professor Kwang-Wook Choi and Dr. Seong-Tae Hong from the Department of Biological Sciences at KAIST has successfully investigated the operational mechanism of the protein Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated (ATM), an essential protein to the function of a crucial key enzyme that repairs the damaged DNA which stores biometric information. The results were published on December 19th Nature Communications online edition. All organisms, including humans, constantly strive to protect the information within their DNA from damages posed by a number of factors, such as carbonized materials in our daily food intake, radioactive materials such as radon emitting from the cement of buildings or ultraviolet of the sunlight, which could be a trigger for cancer. In order to keep the DNA information safe, the organisms are always carrying out complex and sophisticated DNA repair work, which involves the crucial DNA damage repair protein ATM. Consequently, a faulty ATM leads to higher risks of cancer. Until now, academia predicted that the Translationally Controlled Tumor Protein (TCTP) will play an important role in regulating the function of ATM. However, since most of main research regarding TCTP has only been conducted in cultured cells, it was unable to identify exactly what mechanisms TCTP employs to control ATM. The KAIST research team identified that TCTP can combine with ATM or increase the enzymatic activity of ATM. In addition, Drosophilia, one of the most widely used model organisms for molecular genetics, has been used to identify that TCTP and ATM play a very important role in repairing the DNA damaged by radiation. This information has allowed the researchers to establish TCTP’s essential function in maintaining the DNA information in cell cultures and even in higher organisms, and to provide specific and important clues to the regulation of ATM by TCTP. Professor Kwang-Wook Choi said, “Our research is a good example that basic research using Drosophilia can make important contributions to understanding the process of diseases, such as cancer, and to developing adequate treatment.” The research has been funded by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, Republic of Korea, and the National Research Foundation of Korea. Figure 1. When the amount of TCTP protein is reduced, cells of the Drosophila's eye are abnormally deformed by radiation. Scale bars = 200mm Figure 2. When the amount of TCTP protein is reduced, the chromosomes of Drosophilia are easily broken by radiation. Scale bars = 10 mm. Figure 3. When gene expressions of TCTP and ATM are reduced, large defects occur in the normal development of the eye. (Left: normal Drosophilia's eye, right: development-deficient eye) Figure 4. ATM marks the position of the broken DNA, with TCTP helping to facilitate this reaction. DNA (blue line) within the cell nucleus is coiled around the histone protein (green cylinder). When DNA is broken, ATM protein attaches a phosphate group (P). Multiple DNA repair protein recognizes the phosphate as a signal that requires repair and gathers at the site.
Therapy developed to induce Angiogenesis of Retina
- Junyeop Lee, Graduate School of Medical Sciences and Engineering - Research results expected to be applied for treatment of diabetic retinopathy A major clue to treatment of retinovascular disease, which causes blindness, has been found. The key to protection of the retinal nerve is the angiogenic protein that promotes healthy retinal vessel growth around the retina, which usually does not receive blood supply readily. This research offers a beginning to the possible improvement of therapy for diabetic retinopathy1 and retinopathy of prematurity2. Also important to the research is the fact that the ophthalmology specialist researcher, currently undergoing professional training, provided the results. KAIST Graduate School of Medical Sciences and Engineering’s Junyeop Lee is the opthalmology specialist, who carried out the research under supervision by academic advisers Gyuyeong Go and Wookjun Yoo. The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning as well as the National Research Foundation of Korea have funded his research. The research results have been published as a cover paper on ‘Science Translational Medicine’ on 18th August. This journal is a sister publication of Science, which is prestigious in the field of translational medicine that ties the basic science with clinical medicine. (Thesis title: Angiopoietin-1 Guides Directional Angiogenesis Through Integrin αvβ5 Signaling for Recovery of Ischemic Retinopathy) The traditional treatment of diabetic retinopathy includes laser photocoagulation to destroy the retinal tissues or antibody therapeutics, which prevents vessel proliferation and blood leaking. The advantage of antibody therapeutics3 is that it retains the retinal nerves, however, it is not the fundamental solution but merely a temporary one, which requires repeated treatments. The research team identified that Angiopoietin-14 protein, known as essential for growth and stabilization of vessels, also plays an important role in retinal vessel growth. The protein protects the retinal nerves, as well as provides improvement for retinal ischemia5 that is the root cause of vision loss due to retinal hemorrhages. It is expected to become a key to finding fundamental treatment method – by providing sufficient blood supply to the retina, thereby preserving the retinal nerve functions. The results show that administration of Angiopoietin-1 to retinopathy mouse model promotes growth of healthy vessel growth, further preventing abnormal vessel growth, retinal hemorrhage and vision loss due to retinal ischemia. Junyeop Lee said, “This research has identified that Angiopoietin-1 is an important factor in retinal vessel generation and stabilization. The paradigm will shift from traditional treatment method, which prevents vessel growth, to a new method that generates healthy vessels and strengthens vessel functions.” 1 Diabetic retinopathy: This retinovascular disease is a diabetic complication caused by insufficient blood supply. It is the major causes of blindness in adults. 2 Retinopathy of prematurity: The retinal vascular disease that occurs in premature infants with incomplete retinal vascular development. It is also the most common cause of blindness in children. 3 Antibody Therapeutics: Antibody developed to selectively inhibit abnormal blood vessel growth and leakage. Typical antibody therapeutics is Avastin and Lucentis, which hinder vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). 4 Angiopoietin-1: A critical growth factor that induces the production of healthy blood vessels and maintains the stability of the created vessel. 5 Retinal ischemia: State of ailment where retinal tissue blood supply is not sufficient. Figure 1. Retinopathy mouse models show that, in comparison to the control group, the VEGF-Trap treatment and Angiopoietin-1 (Ang1) treatment groups significantly suppresses the pathological vascular proliferation. In addition, the Ang 1 group show vessel growth toward the central avascular area (region of retinal ischemia), which is not observed in VEGF-Trap treatment. Figure 2. Reduced retinal ischemia, retinal bleeding and blood vessel normalization by Angiopoietin-1. Retinal ischemic region (arrow) and retinal bleeding significantly reduced in the Angiopoietin-1 (Ang1) treatment model in comparison to control group (left). The newly generated vessels in Ang 1 model are structurally supported by perivascular cells as normal retinal vessels do (right).
Complex responsible for protein breakdown in cells identified using Bio TEM
Professor Ho-Min Kim - High resolution 3D structure analysis success using Bio Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM), a giant step towards new anticancer treatment development - Published in Nature on May 5th Using TEM to observe protein molecules and analysing its high resolution 3D structure is now possible. KAIST Biomedical Science and Engineering Department’s Professor Ho-Min Kim has identified the high resolution structure of proteasome complexes, which is responsible for protein breakdown in cells, using Bio TEM. This research has been published on the world"s most prestigious journal, Nature, online on May 5th. Our body controls many cellular processes through production and degradation of proteins to maintain homeostasis. A proteasome complex acts as a garbage disposal system and degrades cellular proteins when needed for regulation, which is one of the central roles of the body. However, a mutation in proteasome complex leads to diseases such as cancer, degenerative brain diseases, and autoimmune diseases. Currently, the anticancer drug Velcade is used to decrease proteasome function to treat Multiple Myeloma, a form of blood cancer. Research concerning proteasome complexes for more effective anticancer drugs and treatments with fewer side effects has been taking place for more than 20 years. There have been many difficulties in understanding proteasome function through 3D structure analysis since a proteasome complex, consisting of around 30 different proteins, has a great size and complexity. The research team used Bio TEM instead of conventionally used protein crystallography technique. The protein sample was inserted into Bio TEM, hundreds of photographs were taken from various angles, and then a high–performance computer was used to analyse its structure. Bio TEM requires a smaller sample and can analyse the complexes of great size of proteins. Professor Ho-Min Kim said, “Identifying proteasome complex assembly process and 3D structure will increase our understanding of cellular protein degradation process and hence assist in new drug development using this knowledge.” He added, “High resolution protein structure analysis using Bio TEM, used for the first time in Korea, will enable us to observe structure analysis of large protein complexes that were difficult to approach using protein crystallography.” Professor Kim continued, “If protein crystallography technology and Bio TEM could be used together to complement one another, it would bring a great synergetic effect to protein complex 3D structure analysis research in the future.” Professor Ho-Min Kim has conducted this research since his post-doctorate at the University of California, San Francisco, under the advice of Professor Yifan Cheng; in co-operation with Harvard University and Colorado University. Figure 1: A picture taken by Bio TEM of open state protein sample (proteasome complex) Figure 2: Bio TEM image analysis showing protein 3D structure
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