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Two More Cross-generation Collaborative Labs Open
< President Sung-Chul Shin (sixth from the left) and Professor Sun Chang Kim (seventh from the left) at the signboard ceremony of KAIST BioDesigneering Laboratory > KAIST opened two more cross-generation collaborative labs last month. KAIST BioDesigneering Laboratory headed by Professor Sun Chang Kim from the Department of Biological Sciences and Nanophotonics Laboratory led by Professor Yong-Hee Lee from the Department of Physics have been selected to receive 500 million KRW funding for five years. A four-member selection committee including the former President of ETH Zürich Professor Emeritus Ralph Eichler and Professor Kwang-Soo Kim of Harvard Medical School conducted a three-month review and evaluation for this selection to be made. With these two new labs onboard, a total of six cross-generation collaborative labs will be operated on campus. The operation of cross-generation collaborative labs has been in trial since March last year, as one of the KAIST’s Vision 2031 research innovation initiatives. This novel approach is to pair up senior and junior faculty members for sustaining research and academic achievements even after the senior researcher retires, so that the spectrum of knowledge and research competitiveness can be extended to future generations. The selected labs will be funded for five years, and the funding will be extended if necessary. KAIST will continue to select new labs every year. One of this year’s selectees Professor Sun Chang Kim will be teamed up with Professor Byung-Kwan Cho from the same department and Professor Jung Kyoon Choi from the Department of Bio and Brain Engineering to collaborate in the fields of synthetic biology, systems biology, and genetic engineering. This group mainly aims at designing and synthesizing optimal genomes that can efficiently manufacture protein drug and biomedical active materials. They will also strive to secure large amounts of high-functioning natural active substances, new adhesive antibacterial peptides, and eco-friendly ecological restoration materials. It is expected that collaboration between these three multigenerational professors will help innovate their bio-convergence technology and further strengthen their international competitiveness in the global bio-market. Another world-renowned scholar Professor Yong-Hee Lee of photonic crystal laser study will be joined by Professor Minkyo Seo from the same department and Professor Hansuek Lee from the Graduate School of Nanoscience and Technology. They will explore the extreme limits of light-material interaction based on optical micro/nano resonators, with the goal of developing future nonlinear optoelectronic and quantum optical devices. The knowledge and technology newly gained from the research are expected to provide an important platform for a diverse range of fields from quantum communications to biophysics. (END)
Accurate Detection of Low-Level Somatic Mutation in Intractable Epilepsy
KAIST medical scientists have developed an advanced method for perfectly detecting low-level somatic mutation in patients with intractable epilepsy. Their study showed that deep sequencing replicates of major focal epilepsy genes accurately and efficiently identified low-level somatic mutations in intractable epilepsy. According to the study, their diagnostic method could increase the accuracy up to 100%, unlike the conventional sequencing analysis, which stands at about 30% accuracy. This work was published in Acta Neuropathologica. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder common in children. Approximately one third of child patients are diagnosed with intractable epilepsy despite adequate anti-epileptic medication treatment. Somatic mutations in mTOR pathway genes, SLC35A2, and BRAF are the major genetic causes of intractable epilepsies. A clinical trial to target Focal Cortical Dysplasia type II (FCDII), the mTOR inhibitor is underway at Severance Hospital, their collaborator in Seoul, Korea. However, it is difficult to detect such somatic mutations causing intractable epilepsy because their mutational burden is less than 5%, which is similar to the level of sequencing artifacts. In the clinical field, this has remained a standing challenge for the genetic diagnosis of somatic mutations in intractable epilepsy. Professor Jeong Ho Lee’s team at the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering analyzed paired brain and peripheral tissues from 232 intractable epilepsy patients with various brain pathologies at Severance Hospital using deep sequencing and extracted the major focal epilepsy genes. They narrowed down target genes to eight major focal epilepsy genes, eliminating almost all of the false positive calls using deep targeted sequencing. As a result, the advanced method robustly increased the accuracy and enabled them to detect low-level somatic mutations in unmatched Formalin Fixed Paraffin Embedded (FFPE) brain samples, the most clinically relevant samples. Professor Lee conducted this study in collaboration with Professor Dong Suk Kim and Hoon-Chul Kang at Severance Hospital of Yonsei University. He said, “This advanced method of genetic analysis will improve overall patient care by providing more comprehensive genetic counseling and informing decisions on alternative treatments.” Professor Lee has investigated low-level somatic mutations arising in the brain for a decade. He is developing innovative diagnostics and therapeutics for untreatable brain disorders including intractable epilepsy and glioblastoma at a tech-startup called SoVarGen. “All of the technologies we used during the research were transferred to the company. This research gave us very good momentum to reach the next phase of our startup,” he remarked. The work was supported by grants from the Suh Kyungbae Foundation, a National Research Foundation of Korea grant funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT, the Korean Health Technology R&D Project from the Ministry of Health & Welfare, and the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development. (Figure: Landscape of somatic and germline mutations identified in intractable epilepsy patients. a Signaling pathways for all of the mutated genes identified in this study. Bold: somatic mutation, Regular: germline mutation. b The distribution of variant allelic frequencies (VAFs) of identified somatic mutations. c The detecting rate and types of identified mutations according to histopathology. Yellow: somatic mutations, green: two-hit mutations, grey: germline mutations.)
Manipulating Brain Cells by Smartphone
Researchers have developed a soft neural implant that can be wirelessly controlled using a smartphone. It is the first wireless neural device capable of indefinitely delivering multiple drugs and multiple colour lights, which neuroscientists believe can speed up efforts to uncover brain diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, addiction, depression, and pain. A team under Professor Jae-Woong Jeong from the School of Electrical Engineering at KAIST and his collaborators have invented a device that can control neural circuits using a tiny brain implant controlled by a smartphone. The device, using Lego-like replaceable drug cartridges and powerful, low-energy Bluetooth, can target specific neurons of interest using drugs and light for prolonged periods. This study was published in Nature Biomedical Engineering. “This novel device is the fruit of advanced electronics design and powerful micro and nanoscale engineering,” explained Professor Jeong. “We are interested in further developing this technology to make a brain implant for clinical applications.” This technology significantly overshadows the conventional methods used by neuroscientists, which usually involve rigid metal tubes and optical fibers to deliver drugs and light. Apart from limiting the subject’s movement due to bulky equipment, their relatively rigid structure causes lesions in soft brain tissue over time, therefore making them not suitable for long-term implantation. Although some efforts have been made to partly mitigate adverse tissue response by incorporating soft probes and wireless platforms, the previous solutions were limited by their inability to deliver drugs for long periods of time as well as their bulky and complex control setups. To achieve chronic wireless drug delivery, scientists had to solve the critical challenge of the exhaustion and evaporation of drugs. To combat this, the researchers invented a neural device with a replaceable drug cartridge, which could allow neuroscientists to study the same brain circuits for several months without worrying about running out of drugs. These ‘plug-n-play’ drug cartridges were assembled into a brain implant for mice with a soft and ultrathin probe (with the thickness of a human hair), which consisted of microfluidic channels and tiny LEDs (smaller than a grain of salt), for unlimited drug doses and light delivery. Controlled with an elegant and simple user interface on a smartphone, neuroscientists can easily trigger any specific combination or precise sequencing of light and drug delivery in any implanted target animal without the need to be physically inside the laboratory. Using these wireless neural devices, researchers can also easily setup fully automated animal studies where the behaviour of one animal could affect other animals by triggering light and/or drug delivery. “The wireless neural device enables chronic chemical and optical neuromodulation that has never been achieved before,” said lead author Raza Qazi, a researcher with KAIST and the University of Colorado Boulder. This work was supported by grants from the National Research Foundation of Korea, US National Institute of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse, and Mallinckrodt Professorship. (A neural implant with replaceable drug cartridges and Bluetooth low-energy can target specific neurons .) (Micro LED controlling using smartphone application)
Deciphering Brain Somatic Mutations Associated with Alzheimer's Disease
Researchers have found a potential link between non-inherited somatic mutations in the brain and the progression of Alzheimer’s disease Researchers have identified somatic mutations in the brain that could contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Their findings were published in the journal Nature Communications last week. Decades worth of research has identified inherited mutations that lead to early-onset familial AD. Inherited mutations, however, are behind at most half the cases of late onset sporadic AD, in which there is no family history of the disease. But the genetic factors causing the other half of these sporadic cases have been unclear. Professor Jeong Ho Lee at the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering and colleagues analysed the DNA present in post-mortem hippocampal formations and in blood samples from people aged 70 to 96 with AD and age-matched controls. They specifically looked for non-inherited somatic mutations in their brains using high-depth whole exome sequencing. The team developed a bioinformatics pipeline that enabled them to detect low-level brain somatic single nucleotide variations (SNVs) – mutations that involve the substitution of a single nucleotide with another nucleotide. Brain somatic SNVs have been reported on and accumulate throughout our lives and can sometimes be associated with a range of neurological diseases. The number of somatic SNVs did not differ between individuals with AD and non-demented controls. Interestingly, somatic SNVs in AD brains arise about 4.8 times more slowly than in blood. When the team performed gene-set enrichment tests, 26.9 percent of the AD brain samples had pathogenic brain somatic SNVs known to be linked to hyperphosphorylation of tau proteins, which is one of major hallmarks of AD. Then, they pinpointed a pathogenic SNV in the PIN1 gene, a cis/trans isomerase that balances phosphorylation in tau proteins, found in one AD patient’s brain. They found the mutation was 4.9 time more abundant in AT8-positive – a marker for hyper-phosphorylated tau proteins– neurons in the entorhinal cortex than the bulk hippocampal tissue. Furthermore, in a series of functional assays, they observed the mutation causing a loss of function in PIN1 and such haploinsufficiency increased the phosphorylation and aggregation of tau proteins. “Our study provides new insights into the molecular genetic factors behind Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases potentially linked to somatic mutations in the brain,” said Professor Lee. The team is planning to expand their study to a larger cohort in order to establish stronger links between these brain somatic mutations and the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. (Figure 1. Bioinformatic pipeline for detecting low-level brain somatic mutations in AD and non-AD.) (Figure 2. Pathogenic brain somatic mutations associated with tau phosphorylation are significantly enriched in AD brains.) (Figure 3. A pathogenic brain somatic mutation in PIN1 (c. 477 C>T) is a loss-of-function and related functional assays show its haploinsufficiency increases phosphorylation and aggregation of tau.)
Mathematical Modeling Makes a Breakthrough for a New CRSD Medication
PhD Candidate Dae Wook Kim (Left) and Professor Jae Kyoung Kim (Right) - Systems approach reveals photosensitivity and PER2 level as determinants of clock-modulator efficacy - Mathematicians’ new modeling has identified major sources of interspecies and inter-individual variations in the clinical efficacy of a clock-modulating drug: photosensitivity and PER2 level. This enabled precision medicine for circadian disruption. A KAIST mathematics research team led by Professor Jae Kyoung Kim, in collaboration with Pfizer, applied a combination of mathematical modeling and simulation tools for circadian rhythms sleep disorders (CRSDs) to analyze the animal data generated by Pfizer. This study was reported in Molecular Systems Biology as the cover article on July 8. Pharmaceutical companies have conducted extensive studies on animals to determine the candidacy of this new medication. However, the results of animal testing do not always translate to the same effects in human trials. Furthermore, even between humans, efficacy differs across individuals depending on an individual’s genetic and environmental factors, which require different treatment strategies. To overcome these obstacles, KAIST mathematicians and their collaborators developed adaptive chronotherapeutics to identify precise dosing regimens that could restore normal circadian phase under different conditions. A circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle in the physiological processes of living creatures, including humans. A biological clock in the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nucleus in the human brain sets the time for various human behaviors such as sleep. A disruption of the endogenous timekeeping system caused by changes in one’s life pattern leads to advanced or delayed sleep-wake cycle phase and a desynchronization between sleep-wake rhythms, resulting in CRSDs. To restore the normal timing of sleep, timing of the circadian clock could be adjusted pharmacologically. Pfizer identified PF-670462, which can adjust the timing of circadian clock by inhibiting the core clock kinase of the circadian clock (CK1d/e). However, the efficacy of PF-670462 significantly differs between nocturnal mice and diurnal monkeys, whose sleeping times are opposite. The research team discovered the source of such interspecies variations in drug response by performing thousands of virtual experiments using a mathematical model, which describes biochemical interactions among clock molecules and PF-670462. The result suggests that the effect of PF-670462 is reduced by light exposure in diurnal primates more than in nocturnal mice. This indicates that the strong counteracting effect of light must be considered in order to effectively regulate the circadian clock of diurnal humans using PF-670462. Furthermore, the team also found the source of inter-patients variations in drug efficacy using virtual patients whose circadian clocks were disrupted due to various mutations. The degree of perturbation in the endogenous level of the core clock molecule PER2 affects the efficacy. This explains why the clinical outcomes of clock-modulating drugs are highly variable and certain subtypes are unresponsive to treatment. Furthermore, this points out the limitations of current treatment strategies tailored to only the patient’s sleep and wake time but not to the molecular cause of sleep disorders. PhD candidate Dae Wook Kim, who is the first author, said that this motivates the team to develop an adaptive chronotherapy, which identifies a personalized optimal dosing time of day by tracking the sleep-wake up time of patients via a wearable device and allows for a precision medicine approach for CRSDs. Professor Jae Kyoung Kim said, "As a mathematician, I am excited to help enable the advancement of a new drug candidate, which can improve the lives of so many patients. I hope this result promotes more collaborations in this translational research.” This research was supported by a Pfizer grant to KAIST (G01160179), the Human Frontiers Science Program Organization (RGY0063/2017), and a National Research Foundation (NRF) of Korea Grant (NRF-2016 RICIB 3008468 and NRF-2017-Fostering Core Leaders of the Future Basic Science Program/ Global Ph.D. Fellowship Program). Figure 1. Interspecies and Inter-patients Variations in PF-670462 Efficacy Figure 2. Journal Cover Page Publication: Dae Wook Kim, Cheng Chang, Xian Chen, Angela C Doran, Francois Gaudreault, Travis Wager, George J DeMarco, and Jae Kyoung Kim. 2019. Systems approach reveals photosensitivity and PER2 level as determinants of clock-modulator efficacy. Molecular Systems Biology. EMBO Press, Heidelberg, Germany, Vol. 15, Issue No. 7, Article, 16 pages. https://doi.org/10.15252/msb.20198838 Profile: Prof. Jae Kyoung Kim, PhD firstname.lastname@example.org http://mathsci.kaist.ac.kr/~jaekkim Associate Professor Department of Mathematical Sciences Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) http://kaist.ac.kr Daejeon 34141, Korea Profile: Dae Wook Kim, PhD Candidate email@example.com http://mathsci.kaist.ac.kr/~jaekkim PhD Candidate Department of Mathematical Sciences Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) http://kaist.ac.kr Daejeon 34141, Korea Profile: Dr. Cheng Chang, PhD firstname.lastname@example.org Associate Director of Clinical Pharmacology Clinical Pharmacology, Global Product Development Pfizer https://www.pfizer.com/ Groton 06340, USA (END)
Deep Learning-Powered 'DeepEC' Helps Accurately Understand Enzyme Functions
(Figure: Overall scheme of DeepEC) A deep learning-powered computational framework, ‘DeepEC,’ will allow the high-quality and high-throughput prediction of enzyme commission numbers, which is essential for the accurate understanding of enzyme functions. A team of Dr. Jae Yong Ryu, Professor Hyun Uk Kim, and Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee at KAIST reported the computational framework powered by deep learning that predicts enzyme commission (EC) numbers with high precision in a high-throughput manner. DeepEC takes a protein sequence as an input and accurately predicts EC numbers as an output. Enzymes are proteins that catalyze biochemical reactions and EC numbers consisting of four level numbers (i.e., a.b.c.d) indicate biochemical reactions. Thus, the identification of EC numbers is critical for accurately understanding enzyme functions and metabolism. EC numbers are usually given to a protein sequence encoding an enzyme during a genome annotation procedure. Because of the importance of EC numbers, several EC number prediction tools have been developed, but they have room for further improvement with respect to computation time, precision, coverage, and the total size of the files needed for the EC number prediction. DeepEC uses three convolutional neural networks (CNNs) as a major engine for the prediction of EC numbers, and also implements homology analysis for EC numbers if the three CNNs do not produce reliable EC numbers for a given protein sequence. DeepEC was developed by using a gold standard dataset covering 1,388,606 protein sequences and 4,669 EC numbers. In particular, benchmarking studies of DeepEC and five other representative EC number prediction tools showed that DeepEC made the most precise and fastest predictions for EC numbers. DeepEC also required the smallest disk space for implementation, which makes it an ideal third-party software component. Furthermore, DeepEC was the most sensitive in detecting enzymatic function loss as a result of mutations in domains/binding site residue of protein sequences; in this comparative analysis, all the domains or binding site residue were substituted with L-alanine residue in order to remove the protein function, which is known as the L-alanine scanning method. This study was published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) on June 20, 2019, entitled “Deep learning enables high-quality and high-throughput prediction of enzyme commission numbers.” “DeepEC can be used as an independent tool and also as a third-party software component in combination with other computational platforms that examine metabolic reactions. DeepEC is freely available online,” said Professor Kim. Distinguished Professor Lee said, “With DeepEC, it has become possible to process ever-increasing volumes of protein sequence data more efficiently and more accurately.” This work was supported by the Technology Development Program to Solve Climate Changes on Systems Metabolic Engineering for Biorefineries from the Ministry of Science and ICT through the National Research Foundation of Korea. This work was also funded by the Bio & Medical Technology Development Program of the National Research Foundation of Korea funded by the Korean government, the Ministry of Science and ICT. Profile: -Professor Hyun Uk Kim (email@example.com) https://sites.google.com/view/ehukim Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering -Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org) Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering http://mbel.kaist.ac.kr
Three Professors Receive Han Sung Science Awards
Three KAIST professors swept the 2nd Han Sung Science Awards. Professor Bum-Ki Min from the Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Physics, Professor Sun-Kyu Han from the Department of Chemistry, and Professor Seung-Jae Lee from the Department of Biological Sciences won all three awards presented by the Han Sung Scholarship Foundation, which recognizes promising mid-career scientists in the fields of physics, chemistry, and biological sciences. The awards ceremony will take place on August 16 in Hwaseong. Professor Min was declared as the winner of the physics field in recognition of his outstanding research activities including searching for new application areas for metamaterials and investigating their unexplored functionalities. The metamaterials with a high index of refraction developed by Professor Min’s research team have caught the attention of scientists worldwide, as they can help develop high-resolution imaging systems and ultra-small, hyper-sensitive optical devices. The chemistry field winner, Professor Han, is the youngest awardee so far at 36 years of age. He is often described as one of the most promising next-generation Korean scientists in the field of the total synthesis of complex natural products. Given the fact that this field takes very long-term research, he is making unprecedented research achievements. He is focusing on convergent and flexible synthetic approaches that enable access to not only a single target but various natural products with structural and biosynthetic relevance as well as unnatural products with higher biological potency. Professor Lee was recognized for his contributions to the advancement of biological sciences, especially in aging research. Professor Lee’s team is taking a novel approach by further investigating complex interactions between genetic and environmental factors that affect aging, and identifying genes that mediate the effects. The team has been conducting large-scale gene discovery efforts by employing RNA sequencing analysis, RNAi screening, and chemical mutagenesis screening. They are striving to determine the functional significance of candidate genes obtained from these experiments and mechanistically characterize these genes. (END)
Efficiently Producing Fatty Acids and Biofuels from Glucose
Researchers have presented a new strategy for efficiently producing fatty acids and biofuels that can transform glucose and oleaginous microorganisms into microbial diesel fuel, with one-step direct fermentative production. The newly developed strain, created by Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee and his team, showed the highest efficiency in producing fatty acids and biodiesels ever reported. It will be expected to serve as a new platform to sustainably produce a wide array of fatty acid-based products from glucose and other carbon substrates. Fossil fuels, which have long been energy resources for our daily lives, are now facing serious challenges: depletion of their reserves and their role in global warming. The production of sustainable bio-based renewable energy has emerged as an essential alternative and many studies to replace fossil fuels are underway. One of the representative examples is biodiesel. Currently, it is mainly being produced through the transesterification of vegetable oils or animal fats. The research team engineered oleaginous microorganisms, Rhodococcus opacus, to produce fatty acids and their derivatives that can be used as biodiesel from glucose, one of the most abundant and cheap sugars derived from non-edible biomass. Professor Lee’s team has already engineered Escherichia coli to produce short-chain hydrocarbons, which can be used as gasoline (published in Nature as the cover paper in 2013). However, the production efficiency of the short-chain hydrocarbons using E. coli (0.58 g/L) fell short of the levels required for commercialization. To overcome these issues, the team employed oil-accumulating Rhodococcus opacus as a host strain in this study. First, the team optimized the cultivation conditions of Rhodococcus opacus to maximize the accumulation of oil (triacylglycerol), which serves as a precursor for the biosynthesis of fatty acids and their derivatives. Then, they systematically analyzed the metabolism of the strain and redesigned it to enable higher levels of fatty acids and two kinds of fatty acid-derived biodiesels (fatty acid ethyl esters and long-chain hydrocarbons) to be produced. They found that the resulting strains produced 50.2, 21.3, and 5.2 g/L of fatty acids, fatty acid ethyl esters, and long-chain hydrocarbons, respectively. These are all the highest concentrations ever reported by microbial fermentations. It is expected that these strains can contribute to the future industrialization of microbial-based biodiesel production. “This technology creates fatty acids and biodiesel with high efficiency by utilizing lignocellulose, one of the most abundant resources on the Earth, without depending on fossil fuels and vegetable or animal oils. This will provide new opportunities for oil and petroleum industries, which have long relied on fossil fuels, to turn to sustainable and eco-friendly biotechnologies,” said Professor Lee. This paper titled “Engineering of an oleaginous bacterium for the production of fatty acids and fuels” was published in Nature Chemical Biology on June 17. This work was supported by the Technology Development Program to Solve Climate Changes on Systems Metabolic Engineering for Biorefineries from the Ministry of Science and ICT through the National Research Foundation (NRF) of Korea (NRF-2012M1A2A2026556 and NRF-2012M1A2A2026557). (Figure: Metabolic engineering for the production of free fatty acids (FFAs), fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEEs), and long-chain hydrocarbons (LCHCs) in Rhodococcus opacus PD630. Researchers have presented a new strategy for efficiently producing fatty acids and biofuels that can transform glucose and oleaginous microorganisms into microbial diesel fuel, with one-step direct fermentative production.) # # # Source: Hye Mi Kim, Tong Un Chae, So Young Choi, Won Jun Kim and Sang Yup Lee. Engineering of an oleaginous bacterium for the production of fatty acids and fuels. Nature Chemical Biology ( https://www.nature.com/nchembio/ ) DOI: 10.1038/s41589-019-0295-5 Profile Dr. Sang Yup Lee email@example.com Distinguished Professor at the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering KAIST
Novel Via-Hole-Less Multilevel Metal Interconnection Methods
Forming reliable multi-level metal interconnections is a key technology for integrating devices into organic integrated circuits (ICs). The conventional approach, called “via-hole,” locally removes the insulator and utilizes metal interconnects through the holes. Due to the high sensitivity of organic materials to chemical solvents, heat, and photo-radiation used in conventional “via-hole” methods, alternative printing methods or laser drilling methods have been developed. However, finding a reliable and practical metal interconnection for organic ICs is still challenging. The research team of KAIST Professor Sung Gap Im and Postech Professor Kim Jae-Joon reported a new interconnection method that does not require via-hole formation, “via-hole-less metal interconnection,” in Nature Communications on June 3. Metal electrodes in different layers can be isolated from each other by patterned dielectric layers, where they then can be interconnected to others in the open area where the dielectric layer is not present. See the images below. Vapor phase deposition and in-situ patterning of dielectric layer using iCVD (initiated chemical vapor deposition), used in the “via-hole-less” method, ensure a damage-free process for organic semiconductor materials and result in outstanding performance of the organic devices as multilevel metal interconnects are reliably formed. The team successfully demonstrated three-dimensional (3D) stacking of five organic transistors and integrated circuits using the proposed via-hole-less interconnect method. See the image below. Vapor phase deposition and in-situ patterning of dielectric layer using iCVD (initiated chemical vapor deposition), used in the “via-hole-less” method, ensure a damage-free process for organic semiconductor materials and result in outstanding performance of the organic devices as multilevel metal interconnects are reliably formed. The team successfully demonstrated three-dimensional (3D) stacking of five organic transistors and integrated circuits using the proposed via-hole-less interconnect method. See the image below. Professor Kim explained, “Our proposed via-hole-less interconnect method using a selectively patterned dielectric overcomes the limitations of the previous time-consuming, one-by-one via-hole formation process and provides reliable methods for creating metal interconnects in organic ICs. We expect the via-hole-less scheme to bring advances to organic IC technology.”
5 Biomarkers for Overcoming Colorectal Cancer Drug Resistance Identified
< Professor Kwang-Hyun Cho's Team > KAIST researchers have identified five biomarkers that will help them address resistance to cancer-targeting therapeutics. This new treatment strategy will bring us one step closer to precision medicine for patients who showed resistance. Colorectal cancer is one of the most common types of cancer worldwide. The number of patients has surpassed 1 million, and its five-year survival rate significantly drops to about 20 percent when metastasized. In Korea, the surge of colorectal cancer has been the highest in the last 10 years due to increasing Westernized dietary patterns and obesity. It is expected that the number and mortality rates of colorectal cancer patients will increase sharply as the nation is rapidly facing an increase in its aging population. Recently, anticancer agents targeting only specific molecules of colon cancer cells have been developed. Unlike conventional anticancer medications, these selectively treat only specific target factors, so they can significantly reduce some of the side-effects of anticancer therapy while enhancing drug efficacy. Cetuximab is the most well-known FDA approved anticancer medication. It is a biomarker that predicts drug reactivity and utilizes the presence of the ‘KRAS’ gene mutation. Cetuximab is prescribed to patients who don’t carry the KRAS gene mutation. However, even in patients without the KRAS gene mutation, the response rate of Cetuximab is only about fifty percent, and there is also resistance to drugs after targeted chemotherapy. Compared with conventional chemotherapy alone, the life expectancy only lasts five months on average. In research featured in the FEBS Journal as the cover paper for the April 7 edition, the KAIST research team led by Professor Kwang-Hyun Cho at the Department of Bio and Brain Engineering presented five additional biomarkers that could increase Cetuximab responsiveness using systems biology approach that combines genomic data analysis, mathematical modeling, and cell experiments. The experimental inhibition of newly discovered biomarkers DUSP4, ETV5, GNB5, NT5E, and PHLDA1 in colorectal cancer cells has been shown to overcome Cetuximab resistance in KRAS-normal genes. The research team confirmed that when suppressing GNB5, one of the new biomarkers, it was shown to overcome resistance to Cetuximab regardless of having a mutation in the KRAS gene. Professor Cho said, “There has not been an example of colorectal cancer treatment involving regulation of the GNB5 gene.” He continued, “Identifying the principle of drug resistance in cancer cells through systems biology and discovering new biomarkers that could be a new molecular target to overcome drug resistance suggest real potential to actualize precision medicine.” This study was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) and funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT (2017R1A2A1A17069642 and 2015M3A9A7067220). Image 1. The cover of FEBS Journal for April 2019
Engineered Microbial Production of Grape Flavoring
(Image 1: Engineered bacteria that produce grape flavoring.) Researchers report a microbial method for producing an artificial grape flavor. Methyl anthranilate (MANT) is a common grape flavoring and odorant compound currently produced through a petroleum-based process that uses large volumes of toxic acid catalysts. Professor Sang-Yup Lee’s team at the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering demonstrated production of MANT, a naturally occurring compound, via engineered bacteria. The authors engineered strains of Escherichia coli and Corynebacetrium glutamicum to produce MANT through a plant-based engineered metabolic pathway. The authors tuned the bacterial metabolic pathway by optimizing the levels of AAMT1, the key enzyme in the process. To maximize production of MANT, the authors tested six strategies, including increasing the supply of a precursor compound and enhancing the availability of a co-substrate. The most productive strategy proved to be a two-phase extractive culture, in which MANT was extracted into a solvent. This strategy produced MANT on the scale of 4.47 to 5.74 grams per liter, a significant amount, considering that engineered microbes produce most natural products at a scale of milligrams or micrograms per liter. According to the authors, the results suggest that MANT and other related molecules produced through industrial processes can be produced at scale by engineered microbes in a manner that would allow them to be marketed as natural one, instead of artificial one. This study, featured at the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA on May 13, was supported by the Technology Development Program to Solve Climate Changes on Systems Metabolic Engineering for Biorefineries from the Ministry of Science and ICT. (Image 2. Overview of the strategies applied for the microbial production of grape flavoring.)
Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee Honored with the 23rd NAEK Award
(Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering) Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering was honored to be the laureate of the 23rd NAEK Award. The NAEK (National Academy of Engineering of Korea) Award was instituted in 1997 to honor and recognize engineers who have made significant contributions to the development of the engineering and technology field at universities, industries, and institutions. Every year, it is conferred to only one person who has achieved original and world-leading research that has led to national development. Distinguished Professor Lee is a pioneering scholar of the field of systems metabolic engineering and he was recognized for his significant achievements in the biochemical industry by developing novel microbial bioprocesses. In particular, he is globally renowned for biological plastic synthesis, making or decomposing polymers with microorganisms instead of using fossil resources. He has produced numerous high-quality research breakthroughs in metabolic and systems engineering. In 2016, he produced an easily degradable plastic with Escherichia coli (E. coli). In 2018, he successfully produced aromatic polyesters, the main material for PET (poly ethylene terephthalate) from E. coli strains. He also identified microorganism structures for PET degradation and improved its degradability with a novel variant. His research was ranked number one in the research and development division of Top Ten Science and Technology News 2018 announced by Korean Federation of Science & Technology Societies. He is one of highly cited researchers (HCR) ranked in the top 1% by citations for their field by the Clarivate Analytics.
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