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VP Sang Yup Lee Honored with the Pony Chung Innovation Award
Vice President for Research Sang Yup Lee became the recipient of the Innovation Award by the Pony Chung Foundation that was established to honor the late Se-yung Chung, the former chairman of Hyundai Development Company. He will receive 200 million KRW in prize money. Chairman Chung developed Korea’s first domestically manufactured automobile, ‘Pony,’ in the mid-1970s that became the cornerstone of Korea’s auto industry today. Distinguished Professor Lee, from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, is a pioneering scholar in the field of systems metabolic engineering who developed various micro-organisms for producing a wide range of fuels, chemicals, materials, and natural compounds. He recently was elected as a foreign member of the Royal Society in the UK and is the first Korean ever elected into the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) in the US as well as one of 13 scholars elected as an International Member of both the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in the US.
Professor Jung Receives the Hansong Science Award
Professor Yousung Jung of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering has been selected as the recipient of the 5th Hansong Science Award in Chemistry. The award recognizes young and mid-career scholars who made outstanding achievement in physics, chemistry, and life sciences. Recipients receive 50 million KRW in prize money. Professor Jung was recognized for finding a new way to predict synthesis potentials when designing data-based materials and molecules through AI-powered inverse technology. Conventionally, new material discovery mainly relied on a method where the new materials were proposed by an expert’s intuition or experimental trial, then synthesized to measure the properties of the material before it was used. However, this method took a lot of time, which resulted in an inefficient discovery process. Professor Jung’s AI reverse design technology is reported to be more efficient for discovering new materials by finding crystal structures with desired properties using data and AI algorithms. "AI reverse design technology can accelerate the development of new materials and new drugs," Professor Jung said. "It can be used as an algorithm for future autonomous laboratories implemented by robots, algorithms, and data without human intervention," he added.
Prof. Sang Wan Lee Selected for 2021 IBM Academic Award
Professor Sang Wan Lee from the Department of Bio and Brain Engineering was selected as the recipient of the 2021 IBM Global University Program Academic Award. The award recognizes individual faculty members whose emerging science and technology contains significant interest for universities and IBM. Professor Lee, whose research focuses on artificial intelligence and computational neuroscience, won the award for his research proposal titled A Neuroscience-Inspired Approach for Metacognitive Reinforcement Learning. IBM provides a gift of $40,000 to the recipient’s institution in recognition of the selection of the project but not as a contract for services. Professor Lee’s project aims to exploit the unique characteristics of human reinforcement learning. Specifically, he plans to examines the hypothesis that metacognition, a human’s ability to estimate their uncertainty level, serves to guide sample-efficient and near-optimal exploration, making it possible to achieve an optimal balance between model-based and model-free reinforcement learning. He was also selected as the winner of the Google Research Award in 2016 and has been working with DeepMind and University College London to conduct basic research on decision-making brain science to establish a theory on frontal lobe meta-enhance learning. "We plan to conduct joint research for utilizing brain-based artificial intelligence technology and frontal lobe meta-enhanced learning technology modeling in collaboration with an international research team including IBM, DeepMind, MIT, and Oxford,” Professor Lee said.
Prof. Sang Yup Lee Elected as a Foreign Member of the Royal Society
Vice President for Research Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee was elected as a foreign member of the Royal Society in the UK. On May 6, the Society announced the list of distinguished new 52 fellows and 10 foreign members who achieved exceptional contributions to science. Professor Lee and Professor V. Narry Kim from Seoul National University are the first foreign members ever elected from Korea. The Royal Society, established in 1660, is one of the most prestigious national science academies and a fellowship of 1,600 of the world’s most eminent scientists. From Newton to Darwin, Einstein, Hawking, and beyond, pioneers and paragons in their fields are elected by their peers. To date, there are 280 Nobel prize winners among the fellows. Distinguished Professor Lee from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at KAIST is one of the Highly Cited Researchers (HCRs) who pioneered systems metabolic engineering and developed various micro-organisms for producing a wide range of fuels, chemicals, materials, and natural compounds. His seminal scholarship and research career have already been recognized worldwide. He is the first Korean ever elected into the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) in the US and one of 13 scholars elected as an International Member of both the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in the US. With this fellowship, he added one more accolade of being the first non-US and British Commonwealth scientist elected into the three most prestigious science academies: the NAS, the NAE, and the Royal Society.
Professor Byungha Shin Named Scientist of the Month
Professor Byungha Shin from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering won the Scientist of the Month Award presented by the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) on May 4. Professor Shin was recognized for his research in the field of next-generation perovskite solar cells and received 10 million won in prize money. To achieve ‘carbon neutrality,’ which many countries across the globe including Korea hope to realize, the efficiency of converting renewable energies to electricity must be improved. Solar cells convert solar energy to electricity. Since single solar cells show lower efficiency, the development of ‘tandem solar cells’ that connect two or more cells together has been popular in recent years. However, although ‘perovskite’ received attention as a next-generation material for tandem solar cells, it is sensitive to the external environment including light and moisture, making it difficult to maintain stability. Professor Shin discovered that, theoretically, adding certain anion additives to perovskite solar cells would allow the control of the electrical and structural properties of the two-dimensional stabilization layer that forms inside the film. He confirmed this through high-resolution transmission electron microscopy. Controlling the amount of anions in the additives allowed the preservation of over 80% of the initial stability even after 1000 hours of continuous exposure to sunlight. Based on this discovery, Professor Shin combined silicon with solar cells to create a tandem solar cell with 26.7% energy convergence efficiency. Considering that the highest-efficiency tandem solar cell in existence showed 29.5% efficiency, this figure is quite high. Professor Shin’s perovskite solar cell is also combinable with the CIGS (Cu(In,Ga)Se2) thin-film solar cell composed of copper (Cu), indium (In), gallium (Ga), and selenium (Se2). Professor Shin’s research results were published in the online edition of the journal Science in April of last year. “This research is meaningful for having suggested a direction for solar cell material stabilization using additives,” said Professor Shin. “I look forward to this technique being applied to a wide range of photoelectrical devices including solar cells, LEDs, and photodetectors,” he added. (END)
Professor Jae Kyoung Kim to Lead a New Mathematical Biology Research Group at IBS
Professor Jae Kyoung Kim from the KAIST Department of Mathematical Sciences was appointed as the third Chief Investigator (CI) of the Pioneer Research Center (PRC) for Mathematical and Computational Sciences at the Institute for Basic Science (IBS). Professor Kim will launch and lead a new research group that will be devoted to resolving various biological conundrums from a mathematical perspective. His appointment began on March 1, 2021. Professor Kim, a rising researcher in the field of mathematical biology, has received attention from both the mathematical and biological communities at the international level. Professor Kim puts novel and unremitting efforts into understanding biological systems such as cell-to-cell interactions mathematically and designing mathematical models for identifying causes of diseases and developing therapeutic medicines. Through active joint research with biologists, mathematician Kim has addressed many challenges that have remained unsolved in biology and published papers in a number of leading international journals in related fields. His notable works based on mathematical modelling include having designed a biological circuit that can maintain a stable circadian rhythm (Science, 2015) and unveiling the principles of how the biological clock in the body maintains a steady speed for the first time in over 60 years (Molecular Cell, 2015). Recently, through a joint research project with Pfizer, Professor Kim identified what causes the differences between animal and clinical test results during drug development explaining why drugs have different efficacies in different people (Molecular Systems Biology, 2019). The new IBS biomedical mathematics research group led by Professor Kim will further investigate the causes of unstable circadian rhythms and sleeping patterns. The team will aim to present a new paradigm in treatments for sleep disorders. Professor Kim said, “We are all so familiar with sleep behaviors, but the exact mechanisms behind how such behaviors occur are still unknown. Through cooperation with biomedical scientists, our group will do its best to discover the complicated, fundamental mechanisms of sleep, and investigate the causes and cures of sleep disorders.” Every year, the IBS selects young and promising researchers and appoints them as CIs. A maximum of five selected CIs can form each independent research group within the IBS PRC, and receive research funds of 1 billion to 1.5 billion KRW over five years. (END)
ACS Nano Special Edition Highlights Innovations at KAIST
- The collective intelligence and technological innovation of KAIST was highlighted with case studies including the Post-COVID-19 New Deal R&D Initiative Project. - KAIST’s innovative academic achievements and R&D efforts for addressing the world’s greatest challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic were featured in ACS Nano as part of its special virtual issue commemorating the 50th anniversary of KAIST. The issue consisted of 14 review articles contributed by KAIST faculty from five departments, including two from Professor Il-Doo Kim from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, who serves as an associate editor of the ACS Nano. ACS Nano, the leading international journal in nanoscience and nanotechnology, published a special virtual issue last month, titled ‘Celebrating 50 Years of KAIST: Collective Intelligence and Innovation for Confronting Contemporary Issues.’ This special virtual issue introduced KAIST’s vision of becoming a ‘global value-creative leading university’ and its progress toward this vision over the last 50 years. The issue explained how KAIST has served as the main hub for advanced scientific research and technological innovation in South Korea since its establishment in 1971, and how its faculty and over 69,000 graduates played a key role in propelling the nation’s rapid industrialization and economic development. The issue also emphasized the need for KAIST to enhance global cooperation and the exchange of ideas in the years to come, especially during the post-COVID era intertwined with the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). In this regard, the issue cited the first ‘KAIST Emerging Materials e-Symposium (EMS)’, which was held online for five days in September of last year with a global audience of over 10,000 participating live via Zoom and YouTube, as a successful example of what academic collaboration could look like in the post-COVID and 4IR eras. In addition, the “Science & Technology New Deal Project for COVID-19 Response,” a project conducted by KAIST with support from the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) of South Korea, was also introduced as another excellent case of KAIST’s collective intelligence and technological innovation. The issue highlighted some key achievements from this project for overcoming the pandemic-driven crisis, such as: reusable anti-virus filters, negative-pressure ambulances for integrated patient transport and hospitalization, and movable and expandable negative-pressure ward modules. “We hold our expectations high for the outstanding achievements and progress KAIST will have made by its centennial,” said Professor Kim on the background of curating the 14 review articles contributed by KAIST faculty from the fields of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE), Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (CBE), Nuclear and Quantum Engineering (NQE), Electrical Engineering (EE), and Chemistry (Chem). Review articles discussing emerging materials and their properties covered photonic carbon dots (Professor Chan Beum Park, MSE), single-atom and ensemble catalysts (Professor Hyunjoo Lee, CBE), and metal/metal oxide electrocatalysts (Professor Sung-Yoon Chung, MSE). Review articles discussing materials processing covered 2D layered materials synthesis based on interlayer engineering (Professor Kibum Kang, MSE), eco-friendly methods for solar cell production (Professor Bumjoon J. Kim, CBE), an ex-solution process for the synthesis of highly stable catalysts (Professor WooChul Jung, MSE), and 3D light-patterning synthesis of ordered nanostructures (Professor Seokwoo Jeon, MSE, and Professor Dongchan Jang, NQE). Review articles discussing advanced analysis techniques covered operando materials analyses (Professor Jeong Yeong Park, Chem), graphene liquid cell transmission electron microscopy (Professor Jong Min Yuk, MSE), and multiscale modeling and visualization of materials systems (Professor Seungbum Hong, MSE). Review articles discussing practical state-of-the-art devices covered chemiresistive hydrogen sensors (Professor Il-Doo Kim, MSE), patient-friendly diagnostics and implantable treatment devices (Professor Steve Park, MSE), triboelectric nanogenerators (Professor Yang-Kyu Choi, EE), and next-generation lithium-air batteries (Professor Hye Ryung Byon, Chem, and Professor Il-Doo Kim, MSE). In addition to Professor Il-Doo Kim, post-doctoral researcher Dr. Jaewan Ahn from the KAIST Applied Science Research Institute, Dean of the College of Engineering at KAIST Professor Choongsik Bae, and ACS Nano Editor-in-Chief Professor Paul S. Weiss from the University of California, Los Angeles also contributed to the publication of this ACS Nano special virtual issue. The issue can be viewed and downloaded from the ACS Nano website at https://doi.org/10.1021/acsnano.1c01101. Image credit: KAIST Image usage restrictions: News organizations may use or redistribute this image,with proper attribution, as part of news coverage of this paper only. Publication: Ahn, J., et al. (2021) Celebrating 50 Years of KAIST: Collective Intelligence and Innovation for Confronting Contemporary Issues. ACS Nano 15(3): 1895-1907. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1021/acsnano.1c01101 Profile: Il-Doo Kim, Ph.D Chair Professor firstname.lastname@example.org http://advnano.kaist.ac.kr Advanced Nanomaterials and Energy Lab. Department of Materials Science and Engineering Membrane Innovation Center for Anti-Virus and Air-Quality Control https://kaist.ac.kr/ Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) Daejeon, Republic of Korea (END)
Professor Bumjoon Kim Named Scientist of the Month
Professor Bumjoon Kim from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering won January’s Scientist of the Month Award presented by the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) on January 6. Professor Kim also received 10 million won in prize money. Professor Kim was recognized for his research in the field of fuel cells. Since the first paper on fuel cells was published in 1839 by the German chemist Friedrich Schonbein, there has been an increase in the number of fields in which fuel cells are used, including national defense, aerospace engineering, and autonomous vehicles. Professor Kim developed carbonized block copolymer particles with high durability and a high-performance fuel cell. Block copolymers are two different polymers cross-linked into a chain structure. Various nanostructures can be made effectively by using the attractive and repulsive forces between the chains. Professor Kim used the membrane emulsification technique, employing a high-performance separation membrane to develop a platform that makes the mass production of highly durable carbonized particles possible, which he then used to develop high-performance energy devices like fuel cells. The carbonized particles designed by Professor Kim and his research team were used to create the world’s more durable fuel cells that boast outstanding performance while using only five percent of the costly platinum needed for existing commercialized products. The team’s research results were published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society and Energy Environmental Science in May and July of last year. “We have developed a fuel cell that ticks all the boxes including performance, durability, and cost,” said Professor Kim. “Related techniques will not be limited to fuel cells, but could also be applied to the development of various energy devices like solar cells and secondary cells,” he added. (END)
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.email@example.com://eed.kaist.ac.krAssociate ProfessorDepartment of Chemical & Biomolecular EngineeringKAIST
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com https://med.fsu.edu/biosci/lee-lab Department of Biomedical Sciences Florida State University Florida, USA (END)
Drawing the Line to Answer Art’s Big Questions
- KAIST scientists show how statistical physics can reveal art trends across time and culture. - Algorithms have shown that the compositional structure of Western landscape paintings changed “suspiciously” smoothly between 1500 and 2000 AD, potentially indicating a selection bias by art curators or in art historical literature, physicists from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and colleagues report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). KAIST statistical physicist Hawoong Jeong worked with statisticians, digital analysts and art historians in Korea, Estonia and the US to clarify whether computer algorithms could help resolve long-standing questions about design principles used in landscape paintings, such as the placement of the horizon and other primary features. “A foundational question among art historians is whether artwork contains organizing principles that transcend culture and time and, if yes, how these principles evolved over time,” explains Jeong. “We developed an information-theoretic approach that can capture compositional proportion in landscape paintings and found that the preferred compositional proportion systematically evolved over time.” Digital versions of almost 15,000 canonical landscape paintings from the Western renaissance in the 1500s to the more recent contemporary art period were run through a computer algorithm. The algorithm progressively divides artwork into horizontal and vertical lines depending on the amount of information in each subsequent partition. It allows scientists to evaluate how artists and various art styles compose landscape artwork, in terms of placement of a piece’s most important components, in addition to how high or low the landscape’s horizon is placed. The scientists started by analysing the first two partitioning lines identified by the algorithm in the paintings and found they could be categorized into four groups: an initial horizontal line followed by a second horizontal line (H-H); an initial horizontal line followed by a second vertical line (H-V); a vertical followed by horizontal line (V-H); or a vertical followed by a vertical line (V-V) (see image 1 and 2). They then looked at the categorizations over time. They found that before the mid-nineteenth century, H-V was the dominant composition type, followed by H-H, V-H, and V-V. The mid-nineteenth century then brought change, with the H-V composition style decreasing in popularity with a rise in the H-H composition style. The other two styles remained relatively stable. The scientists also looked at how the horizon line, which separates sky from land, changed over time. In the 16th century, the dominant horizon line of the painting was above the middle of the canvas, but it gradually descended to the lower middle of the canvas by the 17th century, where it remained until the mid-nineteenth century. After that, the horizon line began gradually rising again. Interestingly, the algorithm showed that these findings were similar across cultures and artistic periods, even through periods dominated by a diversity in art styles. This similarity may well be a function, then, of a bias in the dataset. “In recent decades, art historians have prioritized the argument that there is great diversity in the evolution of artistic expression rather than offering a relatively smoother consensus story in Western art,” Jeong says. “This study serves as a reminder that the available large-scale datasets might be perpetuating severe biases.” The scientists next aim to broaden their analyses to include more diverse artwork, as this particular dataset was ultimately Western and male biased. Future analyses should also consider diagonal compositions in paintings, they say. This work was supported by the National Research Foundation (NRF) of Korea. Publication: Lee, B, et al. (2020) Dissecting landscape art history with information theory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Vol. 117, No. 43, 26580-26590. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2011927117 Profile: Hawoong Jeong, Ph.D. Professor firstname.lastname@example.org https://www.kaist.ac.kr Department of Physics Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) Daejeon, Republic of Korea (END)
'Mini-Lungs' Reveal Early Stages of SARS-CoV-2 Infection
Researchers in Korea and the UK have successfully grown miniature models of critical lung structures called alveoli, and used them to study how the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 infects the lungs. To date, there have been more than 40 million cases of COVID-19 and almost 1.13 million deaths worldwide. The main target tissues of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, especially in patients that develop pneumonia, appear to be alveoli – tiny air sacs in the lungs that take up the oxygen we breathe and exchange it with carbon dioxide to exhale. To better understand how SARS-CoV-2 infects the lungs and causes disease, a team of Professor Young Seok Ju from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering at KAIST in collaboration with the Wellcome-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute at the University of Cambridge turned to organoids – ‘mini-organs’ grown in three dimensions to mimic the behaviour of tissue and organs. The team used tissue donated to tissue banks at the Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge University NHS Foundations Trust, UK, and Seoul National University Hospital to extract a type of lung cell known as human lung alveolar type 2 cells. By reprogramming these cells back to their earlier ‘stem cell’ stage, they were able to grow self-organizing alveolar-like 3D structures that mimic the behaviour of key lung tissue. “The research community now has a powerful new platform to study precisely how the virus infects the lungs, as well as explore possible treatments,” said Professor Ju, co-senior author of the research. Dr. Joo-Hyeon Lee, another co-senior author at the Wellcome-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute, said: “We still know surprisingly little about how SARS-CoV-2 infects the lungs and causes disease. Our approach has allowed us to grow 3D models of key lung tissue – in a sense, ‘mini-lungs’ – in the lab and study what happens when they become infected.” The team infected the organoids with a strain of SARS-CoV-2 taken from a patient in Korea who was diagnosed with COVID-19 on January 26 after traveling to Wuhan, China. Using a combination of fluorescence imaging and single cell genetic analysis, they were able to study how the cells responded to the virus. When the 3D models were exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus began to replicate rapidly, reaching full cellular infection just six hours after infection. Replication enables the virus to spread throughout the body, infecting other cells and tissue. Around the same time, the cells began to produce interferons – proteins that act as warning signals to neighbouring cells, telling them to activate their antiviral defences. After 48 hours, the interferons triggered the innate immune response – its first line of defence – and the cells started fighting back against infection. Sixty hours after infection, a subset of alveolar cells began to disintegrate, leading to cell death and damage to the lung tissue. Although the researchers observed changes to the lung cells within three days of infection, clinical symptoms of COVID-19 rarely occur so quickly and can sometimes take more than ten days after exposure to appear. The team say there are several possible reasons for this. It may take several days from the virus first infiltrating the upper respiratory tract to it reaching the alveoli. It may also require a substantial proportion of alveolar cells to be infected or for further interactions with immune cells resulting in inflammation before a patient displays symptoms. “Based on our model we can tackle many unanswered key questions, such as understanding genetic susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2, assessing relative infectivity of viral mutants, and revealing the damage processes of the virus in human alveolar cells,” said Professor Ju. “Most importantly, it provides the opportunity to develop and screen potential therapeutic agents against SARS-CoV-2 infection.” “We hope to use our technique to grow these 3D models from cells of patients who are particularly vulnerable to infection, such as the elderly or people with diseased lungs, and find out what happens to their tissue,” added Dr. Lee. The research was a collaboration involving scientists from KAIST, the University of Cambridge, Korea National Institute of Health, Institute for Basic Science (IBS), Seoul National University Hospital and Genome Insight in Korea. - ProfileProfessor Young Seok JuLaboratory of Cancer Genomics https://julab.kaist.ac.kr the Graduate School of Medical Science and EngineeringKAIST
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