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Biomarker Predicts Who Will Have Severe COVID-19
- Airway cell analyses showing an activated immune axis could pinpoint the COVID-19 patients who will most benefit from targeted therapies.- KAIST researchers have identified key markers that could help pinpoint patients who are bound to get a severe reaction to COVID-19 infection. This would help doctors provide the right treatments at the right time, potentially saving lives. The findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology on August 28. People’s immune systems react differently to infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, ranging from mild to severe, life-threatening responses. To understand the differences in responses, Professor Heung Kyu Lee and PhD candidate Jang Hyun Park from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering at KAIST analysed ribonucleic acid (RNA) sequencing data extracted from individual airway cells of healthy controls and of mildly and severely ill patients with COVID-19. The data was available in a public database previously published by a group of Chinese researchers. “Our analyses identified an association between immune cells called neutrophils and special cell receptors that bind to the steroid hormone glucocorticoid,” Professor Lee explained. “This finding could be used as a biomarker for predicting disease severity in patients and thus selecting a targeted therapy that can help treat them at an appropriate time,” he added. Severe illness in COVID-19 is associated with an exaggerated immune response that leads to excessive airway-damaging inflammation. This condition, known as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), accounts for 70% of deaths in fatal COVID-19 infections. Scientists already know that this excessive inflammation involves heightened neutrophil recruitment to the airways, but the detailed mechanisms of this reaction are still unclear. Lee and Park’s analyses found that a group of immune cells called myeloid cells produced excess amounts of neutrophil-recruiting chemicals in severely ill patients, including a cytokine called tumour necrosis factor (TNF) and a chemokine called CXCL8. Further RNA analyses of neutrophils in severely ill patients showed they were less able to recruit very important T cells needed for attacking the virus. At the same time, the neutrophils produced too many extracellular molecules that normally trap pathogens, but damage airway cells when produced in excess. The researchers additionally found that the airway cells in severely ill patients were not expressing enough glucocorticoid receptors. This was correlated with increased CXCL8 expression and neutrophil recruitment. Glucocorticoids, like the well-known drug dexamethasone, are anti-inflammatory agents that could play a role in treating COVID-19. However, using them in early or mild forms of the infection could suppress the necessary immune reactions to combat the virus. But if airway damage has already happened in more severe cases, glucocorticoid treatment would be ineffective. Knowing who to give this treatment to and when is really important. COVID-19 patients showing reduced glucocorticoid receptor expression, increased CXCL8 expression, and excess neutrophil recruitment to the airways could benefit from treatment with glucocorticoids to prevent airway damage. Further research is needed, however, to confirm the relationship between glucocorticoids and neutrophil inflammation at the protein level. “Our study could serve as a springboard towards more accurate and reliable COVID-19 treatments,” Professor Lee said. This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea, and Mobile Clinic Module Project funded by KAIST. Figure. Low glucocorticoid receptor (GR) expression led to excessive inflammation and lung damage by neutrophils through enhancing the expression of CXCL8 and other cytokines. Image credit: Professor Heung Kyu Lee, KAIST. Created with Biorender.com. Image usage restrictions: News organizations may use or redistribute these figures and image, with proper attribution, as part of news coverage of this paper only. Publication: Jang Hyun Park, and Heung Kyu Lee. (2020). Re-analysis of Single Cell Transcriptome Reveals That the NR3C1-CXCL8-Neutrophil Axis Determines the Severity of COVID-19. Frontiers in Immunology, Available online at https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2020.02145 Profile: Heung Kyu Lee Associate Professor firstname.lastname@example.org https://www.heungkyulee.kaist.ac.kr/ Laboratory of Host Defenses Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering (GSMSE) The Center for Epidemic Preparedness at KAIST Institute http://kaist.ac.kr Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) Daejeon, Republic of Korea Profile: Jang Hyun Park PhD Candidate email@example.com GSMSE, KAIST (END)
Sturdy Fabric-Based Piezoelectric Energy Harvester Takes Us One Step Closer to Wearable Electronics
KAIST researchers presented a highly flexible but sturdy wearable piezoelectric harvester using the simple and easy fabrication process of hot pressing and tape casting. This energy harvester, which has record high interfacial adhesion strength, will take us one step closer to being able to manufacture embedded wearable electronics. A research team led by Professor Seungbum Hong said that the novelty of this result lies in its simplicity, applicability, durability, and its new characterization of wearable electronic devices. Wearable devices are increasingly being used in a wide array of applications from small electronics to embedded devices such as sensors, actuators, displays, and energy harvesters. Despite their many advantages, high costs and complex fabrication processes remained challenges for reaching commercialization. In addition, their durability was frequently questioned. To address these issues, Professor Hong’s team developed a new fabrication process and analysis technology for testing the mechanical properties of affordable wearable devices. For this process, the research team used a hot pressing and tape casting procedure to connect the fabric structures of polyester and a polymer film. Hot pressing has usually been used when making batteries and fuel cells due to its high adhesiveness. Above all, the process takes only two to three minutes. The newly developed fabrication process will enable the direct application of a device into general garments using hot pressing just as graphic patches can be attached to garments using a heat press. In particular, when the polymer film is hot pressed onto a fabric below its crystallization temperature, it transforms into an amorphous state. In this state, it compactly attaches to the concave surface of the fabric and infiltrates into the gaps between the transverse wefts and longitudinal warps. These features result in high interfacial adhesion strength. For this reason, hot pressing has the potential to reduce the cost of fabrication through the direct application of fabric-based wearable devices to common garments. In addition to the conventional durability test of bending cycles, the newly introduced surface and interfacial cutting analysis system proved the high mechanical durability of the fabric-based wearable device by measuring the high interfacial adhesion strength between the fabric and the polymer film. Professor Hong said the study lays a new foundation for the manufacturing process and analysis of wearable devices using fabrics and polymers. He added that his team first used the surface and interfacial cutting analysis system (SAICAS) in the field of wearable electronics to test the mechanical properties of polymer-based wearable devices. Their surface and interfacial cutting analysis system is more precise than conventional methods (peel test, tape test, and microstretch test) because it qualitatively and quantitatively measures the adhesion strength. Professor Hong explained, “This study could enable the commercialization of highly durable wearable devices based on the analysis of their interfacial adhesion strength. Our study lays a new foundation for the manufacturing process and analysis of other devices using fabrics and polymers. We look forward to fabric-based wearable electronics hitting the market very soon.” The results of this study were registered as a domestic patent in Korea last year, and published in Nano Energy this month. This study has been conducted through collaboration with Professor Yong Min Lee in the Department of Energy Science and Engineering at DGIST, Professor Kwangsoo No in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at KAIST, and Professor Seunghwa Ryu in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at KAIST. This study was supported by the High-Risk High-Return Project and the Global Singularity Research Project at KAIST, the National Research Foundation, and the Ministry of Science and ICT in Korea. -Publication: Jaegyu Kim, Seoungwoo Byun, Sangryun Lee, Jeongjae Ryu, Seongwoo Cho, Chungik Oh, Hongjun Kim, Kwangsoo No, Seunghwa Ryu, Yong Min Lee, Seungbum Hong*, Nano Energy 75 (2020), 104992. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nanoen.2020.104992 -Profile: Professor Seungbum Hong firstname.lastname@example.org http://mii.kaist.ac.kr/ Department of Materials Science and Engineering KAIST
Life After COVID-19: Big Questions on Medical and Bio-Engineering
KAIST GSI forum explores big questions in the medical and bio-engineering revolution caused by the COVID-19 in fight against infectious diseases and life quality On September 9, the Global Strategy Institute at KAIST will delve into innovative future strategies for the medical and bio-engineering sectors that have been disrupted by COVID-19. The forum will live stream via YouTube, KTV, and Naver TV from 9:00 am Korean time. The online forum features a speaker lineup of world-renowned scholars who will discuss an array of bio-engineering technologies that will improve our quality of life and even extend our life span. This is the GSI’s third online forum since the first one in April that covered the socio-economic implications of the global pandemic and the second one in June focusing on the education sector. In hosting the third round of the GSI Forum series, KAIST President Sung-Chul Shin stressed the power of science and technology saying, “In this world full of uncertainties, one thing for sure is that only the advancement of science and technology will deliver us from this crisis.” Korean Prime Minister Sye-Kyun Chung will also deliver a speech explaining the government’s response to COVID-19 and vaccine development strategies. The President of the National Academy of Medicine in the US will share ideal policies to back up the bio-engineering and medical sectors and Futurist Thomas Frey from the Davinci Institute will present his distinct perspectives on our future lives after COVID-19. His thought-provoking insights on advancements in the bioengineering sector will examine whether humanity can put an end to infectious diseases and find new ways to lengthen our lives. Two distinguished professors in the field of genetic engineering technology will share their latest breakthroughs. Professor George McDonald Church from Harvard Medical School who developed genome sequencing will deliver a keynote speech on how the advancement of gene editing and genome technology will overcome diseases and contribute to extending human life spans. Professor Kwang-Soo Kim, a KAIST alumnus from Harvard Medical School who recently reported new discoveries for Parkinson’s disease treatment by reprogramming a patient’s own skin cells to replace cells in the brain, will introduce the latest clinical cell treatment technologies based on personalized therapeutics. Senior Vice President and Chief Product Officer of Illumina Susan Tousi, a leading genome sequencing solution provider, will describe genome analysis technology and explore the potential for disease prevention. KAIST medical scientist Jeong Ho Lee, who was the first to identify the causes of intractable epilepsies and has identified the genes responsible for several developmental brain disorders. Professor Jin-Hyung Lee from Stanford University and Dr. David B. Resnik from the National Institute of Environmental Health Science will also join the speaker lineup to discuss genetics-based personalized solutions to extend human life spans. The forum will also invite about 50 young scientists and medical researchers from around the world to participate in an online panel session. They will engage in a Q&A session and a discussion with the speakers. (END)
Advanced NVMe Controller Technology for Next Generation Memory Devices
KAIST researchers advanced non-volatile memory express (NVMe) controller technology for next generation information storage devices, and made this new technology named ‘OpenExpress’ freely available to all universities and research institutes around the world to help reduce the research cost in related fields. NVMe is a communication protocol made for high-performance storage devices based on a peripheral component interconnect-express (PCI-E) interface. NVMe has been developed to take the place of the Serial AT Attachment (SATA) protocol, which was developed to process data on hard disk drives (HDDs) and did not perform well in solid state drives (SSDs). Unlike HDDs that use magnetic spinning disks, SSDs use semiconductor memory, allowing the rapid reading and writing of data. SSDs also generate less heat and noise, and are much more compact and lightweight. Since data processing in SSDs using NVMe is up to six times faster than when SATA is used, NVMe has become the standard protocol for ultra-high speed and volume data processing, and is currently used in many flash-based information storage devices. Studies on NVMe continue at both the academic and industrial levels, however, its poor accessibility is a drawback. Major information and communications technology (ICT) companies around the world expend astronomical costs to procure intellectual property (IP) related to hardware NVMe controllers, necessary for the use of NVMe. However, such IP is not publicly disclosed, making it difficult to be used by universities and research institutes for research purposes. Although a small number of U.S. Silicon Valley startups provide parts of their independently developed IP for research, the cost of usage is around 34,000 USD per month. The costs skyrocket even further because each copy of single-use source code purchased for IP modification costs approximately 84,000 USD. In order to address these issues, a group of researchers led by Professor Myoungsoo Jung from the School of Electrical Engineering at KAIST developed a next generation NVMe controller technology that achieved parallel data input/output processing for SSDs in a fully hardware automated form. The researchers presented their work at the 2020 USENIX Annual Technical Conference (USENIX ATC ’20) in July, and released it as an open research framework named ‘OpenExpress.’ This NVMe controller technology developed by Professor Jung’s team comprises a wide range of basic hardware IP and key NVMe IP cores. To examine its actual performance, the team made an NVMe hardware controller prototype using OpenExpress, and designed all logics provided by OpenExpress to operate at high frequency. The field-programmable gate array (FPGA) memory card prototype developed using OpenExpress demonstrated increased input/output data processing capacity per second, supporting up to 7 gigabit per second (GB/s) bandwidth. This makes it suitable for ultra-high speed and volume next generation memory device research. In a test comparing various storage server loads on devices, the team’s FPGA also showed 76% higher bandwidth and 68% lower input/output delay compared to Intel’s new high performance SSD (Optane SSD), which is sufficient for many researchers studying systems employing future memory devices. Depending on user needs, silicon devices can be synthesized as well, which is expected to further enhance performance. The NVMe controller technology of Professor Jung’s team can be freely used and modified under the OpenExpress open-source end-user agreement for non-commercial use by all universities and research institutes. This makes it extremely useful for research on next-generation memory compatible NVMe controllers and software stacks. “With the product of this study being disclosed to the world, universities and research institutes can now use controllers that used to be exclusive for only the world’s biggest companies, at no cost,ˮ said Professor Jung. He went on to stress, “This is a meaningful first step in research of information storage device systems such as high-speed and volume next generation memory.” This work was supported by a grant from MemRay, a company specializing in next generation memory development and distribution. More details about the study can be found at http://camelab.org. Image credit: Professor Myoungsoo Jung, KAIST Image usage restrictions: News organizations may use or redistribute these figures and image, with proper attribution, as part of news coverage of this paper only. Publication: Myoungsoo Jung. (2020). OpenExpress: Fully Hardware Automated Open Research Framework for Future Fast NVMe Devices. Presented in the Proceedings of the 2020 USENIX Annual Technical Conference (USENIX ATC ’20), Available online at https://www.usenix.org/system/files/atc20-jung.pdf Profile: Myoungsoo Jung, PhD. Associate Professor email@example.com http://camelab.org Computer Architecture and Memory Systems Laboratory School of Electrical Engineering http://kaist.ac.kr Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) Daejeon, Republic of Korea (END)
Virtual Commencement Ceremony Honors the Class of 2020
The KAIST community gathered online to celebrate the 2020 graduating class. The blended ceremony conferred their hard-earned degrees on August 28. The belated celebration, which was postponed from February 21 due to the COVID-19 outbreak, honored the 2846 graduates with live streaming on YouTube beginning at 2:00 pm. The graduates include 721 PhDs and 1399 master’s degree holders. The government raised its social distancing guidelines to level two out of three on August 23 as the second wave of the virus hit the nation. Level two guidelines prohibit the gathering of more than 50 persons indoors or 100 persons outdoors. For the virtual ceremony, the Office of Student Affairs and Policy announced a list of 67 graduates who signed up to participate in the graduation ceremony. Graduates were divided into three groups to attend at three different places and watch the ceremony via Zoom. No family and friends of the graduates were allowed to participate at the campus. This year’s valedictorian, Kon-Yong Lee from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, received the Award of Minister of Science and Technology. Salutorian Hee-Kwang Roh from the Department of Chemistry received the Award of the KAIST Board of Trustees, while the recipient of the KAIST Presidential Award was Hong Jae-Min from the School of Computing. President Sung-Chul Shin, Chairman of the Board of Trustees Woo-Sik Kim, former Minister of Science and Technology and former Provost at KAIST Dr. KunMo Chung, and a very limited number of faculty and staff members officiated the commencement ceremony from the KAIST auditorium. President Shin in his commencement speech applauded the graduates’ hard work and dedication and delivered a very special congratulatory message to them. He encouraged the new graduates to be courageous enough to deal with these new challenges as well as future uncertainties, during the greatest transformation brought about by COVID-19. “Instead of following behind others as a fast follower, we should take the initiative and walk down new paths as a first mover.” He also stressed, “We can transform this crisis into an opportunity by practicing the C3 values KAIST pursues: Challenging, Creating, and Caring.” As new alumni of Korea’s top science and technology university, he said, “Our graduates should focus on creating the world’s best, first, or only one in their research or their work.” However, he also pointed out the importance of a caring mind for others when working together. At the ceremony, KAIST conferred an honorary doctorate degree to Dr. Younghoon David Kim, CEO and Chairman of Daesung Group, in recognition of his lifetime dedication to making innovations in the energy industry. Daesung Group is a leading energy company in Korea which manufactures and supplies natural gas for industries and home users. Dr. Kim is committed to making efficient energy sources by advancing cutting-energy sciences and disruptive technologies. He has served as chairman of the World Energy Council since 2016. In his acceptance speech, Kim stressed the Grand Energy Transition as a new driving force in the future energy industry for maximizing energy efficiency. “Since energy is the most basic foundation for all industries, improvements in energy efficiency translate into benefits for all related industries in terms of its efficiency and productivity.” “The Grand Energy Transition is progressing widely and rapidly across the entire value chain of energy production, distribution, and consumption with decarbonization, decentralization, and digitalization serving as its driving force.” He went on, “We should regard energy efficiency not as the fifth fuel but the first primary fuel.” (END)
Before Eyes Open, They Get Ready to See
- Spontaneous retinal waves can generate long-range horizontal connectivity in visual cortex. - A KAIST research team’s computational simulations demonstrated that the waves of spontaneous neural activity in the retinas of still-closed eyes in mammals develop long-range horizontal connections in the visual cortex during early developmental stages. This new finding featured in the August 19 edition of Journal of Neuroscience as a cover article has resolved a long-standing puzzle for understanding visual neuroscience regarding the early organization of functional architectures in the mammalian visual cortex before eye-opening, especially the long-range horizontal connectivity known as “feature-specific” circuitry. To prepare the animal to see when its eyes open, neural circuits in the brain’s visual system must begin developing earlier. However, the proper development of many brain regions involved in vision generally requires sensory input through the eyes. In the primary visual cortex of the higher mammalian taxa, cortical neurons of similar functional tuning to a visual feature are linked together by long-range horizontal circuits that play a crucial role in visual information processing. Surprisingly, these long-range horizontal connections in the primary visual cortex of higher mammals emerge before the onset of sensory experience, and the mechanism underlying this phenomenon has remained elusive. To investigate this mechanism, a group of researchers led by Professor Se-Bum Paik from the Department of Bio and Brain Engineering at KAIST implemented computational simulations of early visual pathways using data obtained from the retinal circuits in young animals before eye-opening, including cats, monkeys, and mice. From these simulations, the researchers found that spontaneous waves propagating in ON and OFF retinal mosaics can initialize the wiring of long-range horizontal connections by selectively co-activating cortical neurons of similar functional tuning, whereas equivalent random activities cannot induce such organizations. The simulations also showed that emerged long-range horizontal connections can induce the patterned cortical activities, matching the topography of underlying functional maps even in salt-and-pepper type organizations observed in rodents. This result implies that the model developed by Professor Paik and his group can provide a universal principle for the developmental mechanism of long-range horizontal connections in both higher mammals as well as rodents. Professor Paik said, “Our model provides a deeper understanding of how the functional architectures in the visual cortex can originate from the spatial organization of the periphery, without sensory experience during early developmental periods.” He continued, “We believe that our findings will be of great interest to scientists working in a wide range of fields such as neuroscience, vision science, and developmental biology.” This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF). Undergraduate student Jinwoo Kim participated in this research project and presented the findings as the lead author as part of the Undergraduate Research Participation (URP) Program at KAIST. Figures and image credit: Professor Se-Bum Paik, KAIST Image usage restrictions: News organizations may use or redistribute these figures and image, with proper attribution, as part of news coverage of this paper only. Publication: Jinwoo Kim, Min Song, and Se-Bum Paik. (2020). Spontaneous retinal waves generate long-range horizontal connectivity in visual cortex. Journal of Neuroscience, Available online athttps://www.jneurosci.org/content/early/2020/07/17/JNEUROSCI.0649-20.2020 Profile: Se-Bum Paik Assistant Professor firstname.lastname@example.org http://vs.kaist.ac.kr/ VSNN Laboratory Department of Bio and Brain Engineering Program of Brain and Cognitive Engineering http://kaist.ac.kr Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) Daejeon, Republic of Korea Profile: Jinwoo Kim Undergraduate Student email@example.com Department of Bio and Brain Engineering, KAIST Profile: Min Song Ph.D. Candidate firstname.lastname@example.org Program of Brain and Cognitive Engineering, KAIST (END)
Microscopy Approach Poised to Offer New Insights into Liver Diseases
Researchers have developed a new way to visualize the progression of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in mouse models of the disease. The new microscopy method provides a high-resolution 3D view that could lead to important new insights into NAFLD, a condition in which too much fat is stored in the liver. “It is estimated that a quarter of the adult global population has NAFLD, yet an effective treatment strategy has not been found,” said professor Pilhan Kim from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering at KAIST. “NAFLD is associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes and can sometimes progress to liver failure in serious case.” In the Optical Society (OSA) journal Biomedical Optics Express, Professor Kim and colleagues reported their new imaging technique and showed that it can be used to observe how tiny droplets of fat, or lipids, accumulate in the liver cells of living mice over time. “It has been challenging to find a treatment strategy for NAFLD because most studies examine excised liver tissue that represents just one timepoint in disease progression,” said Professor Kim. “Our technique can capture details of lipid accumulation over time, providing a highly useful research tool for identifying the multiple parameters that likely contribute to the disease and could be targeted with treatment.” Capturing the dynamics of NAFLD in living mouse models of the disease requires the ability to observe quickly changing interactions of biological components in intact tissue in real-time. To accomplish this, the researchers developed a custom intravital confocal and two-photon microscopy system that acquires images of multiple fluorescent labels at video-rate with cellular resolution. “With video-rate imaging capability, the continuous movement of liver tissue in live mice due to breathing and heart beating could be tracked in real time and precisely compensated,” said Professor Kim. “This provided motion-artifact free high-resolution images of cellular and sub-cellular sized individual lipid droplets.” The key to fast imaging was a polygonal mirror that rotated at more than 240 miles per hour to provide extremely fast laser scanning. The researchers also incorporated four different lasers and four high-sensitivity optical detectors into the setup so that they could acquire multi-color images to capture different color fluorescent probes used to label the lipid droplets and microvasculature in the livers of live mice. “Our approach can capture real-time changes in cell behavior and morphology, vascular structure and function, and the spatiotemporal localization of biological components while directly visualizing of lipid droplet development in NAFLD progression,” said Professor Kim. “It also allows the analysis of the highly complex behaviors of various immune cells as NAFLD progresses.” The researchers demonstrated their approach by using it to observe the development and spatial distribution of lipid droplets in individual mice with NAFLD induced by a methionine and choline-deficient diet. Next, they plan to use it to study how the liver microenvironment changes during NAFLD progression by imaging the same mouse over time. They also want to use their microscope technique to visualize various immune cells and lipid droplets to better understand the complex liver microenvironment in NAFLD progression.
Professor Jaehyouk Choi, IT Young Engineer of the Year
Professor Jaehyouk Choi from the KAIST School of Electrical Engineering won the ‘IT Young Engineer Award’ for 2020. The award was co-presented by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the Institute of Electronics Engineers of Korea (IEIE), and sponsored by the Haedong Science and Culture Foundation. The ‘IT Young Engineer Award’ selects only one mid-career scientist or engineer 40 years old or younger every year, who has made a great contribution to academic or technological advancements in the field of IT. Professor Choi’s research topics include high-performance semiconductor circuit design for ultrahigh-speed communication systems including 5G communication. In particular, he is widely known for his field of the ‘ultra-low-noise, high-frequency signal generation circuit,’ key technology for next-generation wired and wireless communications, as well as for memory systems. He has published 64 papers in SCI journals and at international conferences, and applied for and registered 25 domestic and international patents. Professor Choi is also an active member of the Technical Program Committee of international symposiums in the field of semiconductor circuits including the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) and the European Solid-State Circuit Conference (ESSCIRC). Beginning this year, he also serves as a distinguished lecturer at the IEEE Solid-State Circuit Society (SSCS). (END)
KAIST Technology Value Tops in Commercialization Market
KAIST became the first Korean university to achieve 10.183 billion KRW in annual technology royalties, and was also selected as an ‘Institution of Outstanding Patent Quality Management’ and an ‘Institution of Outstanding Public Patent Technology Transfer’ for 2020. KAIST earns its technology royalties through 56 technology transfer contracts. Following KAIST in the rankings were Seoul National University (SNU) in second place with 8.8 billion KRW from 87 contracts and Korea University (KU) in the third with 5.4 billion KRW from 133 contracts. The data shows the high value of KAIST-created technology in the market. The Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) started to recognize the Institution of Outstanding Patent Quality Management this year to encourage profit-driven patent management at universities and public research institutes, and KAIST was selected as one of the four first recipients of this distinction. In addition, KAIST was selected as an Institution of Outstanding Public Patent Technology Transfer, a title given by KIPO to three universities and public research institutes this year with outstanding achievements in technology transfers and commercialization to encourage patent utilization. Director of the KAIST Institute of Technology Value Creation (ITVC) Professor Kyung-cheol Choi said that KAIST’s achievement in annual technology royalties and technology transfers and commercialization were prime examples of accelerating competitiveness in intellectual property through innovative R&D investment. In April, KAIST expanded and reorganized its Industry-Academia Collaboration Team into the ITVC to support technology transfers and commercialization. Specialized organizations such as the Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer Center and Industrial Liaison Center have been established under the ITVC, and industry experts have been recruited as special professors focusing on industry-academia collaborations to enhance its specialized functions. KAIST also operates an enterprise membership system and technology consulting system, aimed at sharing its outstanding intellectual property within domestic industries. In 2019, it secured a technology transfer commercialization fund of 1.2 billion KRW available for three years under KIPO’s Intellectual Property Profit Reinvestment Support Program (formerly the Korean Patent Gap Fund Creation Project). This program was introduced to bridge the gap between the technology developed in universities and the level of technology required by industry. Under the program, bold investments are made in early-stage technologies at the research paper or experiment phase. The program encourages enterprises to take active steps for the transfer of technologies by demonstrating their commercial potential through prototype production, testing and certification, and standard patent filing. KAIST is currently funding approximately 20 new technologies under this program as of July 2020. KAIST’s outstanding intellectual property management has also received international recognition, with its selection as Asia’s leading institution in university R&D intellectual property at the Intellectual Property Business Congress (IPBC) Asia 2019 held in Tokyo, Japan last October. (END)
Deep Learning-Based Cough Recognition Model Helps Detect the Location of Coughing Sounds in Real Time
The Center for Noise and Vibration Control at KAIST announced that their coughing detection camera recognizes where coughing happens, visualizing the locations. The resulting cough recognition camera can track and record information about the person who coughed, their location, and the number of coughs on a real-time basis. Professor Yong-Hwa Park from the Department of Mechanical Engineering developed a deep learning-based cough recognition model to classify a coughing sound in real time. The coughing event classification model is combined with a sound camera that visualizes their locations in public places. The research team said they achieved a best test accuracy of 87.4 %. Professor Park said that it will be useful medical equipment during epidemics in public places such as schools, offices, and restaurants, and to constantly monitor patients’ conditions in a hospital room. Fever and coughing are the most relevant respiratory disease symptoms, among which fever can be recognized remotely using thermal cameras. This new technology is expected to be very helpful for detecting epidemic transmissions in a non-contact way. The cough event classification model is combined with a sound camera that visualizes the cough event and indicates the location in the video image. To develop a cough recognition model, a supervised learning was conducted with a convolutional neural network (CNN). The model performs binary classification with an input of a one-second sound profile feature, generating output to be either a cough event or something else. In the training and evaluation, various datasets were collected from Audioset, DEMAND, ETSI, and TIMIT. Coughing and others sounds were extracted from Audioset, and the rest of the datasets were used as background noises for data augmentation so that this model could be generalized for various background noises in public places. The dataset was augmented by mixing coughing sounds and other sounds from Audioset and background noises with the ratio of 0.15 to 0.75, then the overall volume was adjusted to 0.25 to 1.0 times to generalize the model for various distances. The training and evaluation datasets were constructed by dividing the augmented dataset by 9:1, and the test dataset was recorded separately in a real office environment. In the optimization procedure of the network model, training was conducted with various combinations of five acoustic features including spectrogram, Mel-scaled spectrogram and Mel-frequency cepstrum coefficients with seven optimizers. The performance of each combination was compared with the test dataset. The best test accuracy of 87.4% was achieved with Mel-scaled Spectrogram as the acoustic feature and ASGD as the optimizer. The trained cough recognition model was combined with a sound camera. The sound camera is composed of a microphone array and a camera module. A beamforming process is applied to a collected set of acoustic data to find out the direction of incoming sound source. The integrated cough recognition model determines whether the sound is cough or not. If it is, the location of cough is visualized as a contour image with a ‘cough’ label at the location of the coughing sound source in a video image. A pilot test of the cough recognition camera in an office environment shows that it successfully distinguishes cough events and other events even in a noisy environment. In addition, it can track the location of the person who coughed and count the number of coughs in real time. The performance will be improved further with additional training data obtained from other real environments such as hospitals and classrooms. Professor Park said, “In a pandemic situation like we are experiencing with COVID-19, a cough detection camera can contribute to the prevention and early detection of epidemics in public places. Especially when applied to a hospital room, the patient's condition can be tracked 24 hours a day and support more accurate diagnoses while reducing the effort of the medical staff." This study was conducted in collaboration with SM Instruments Inc. Profile: Yong-Hwa Park, Ph.D. Associate Professor email@example.com http://human.kaist.ac.kr/ Human-Machine Interaction Laboratory (HuMaN Lab.) Department of Mechanical Engineering (ME) Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) https://www.kaist.ac.kr/en/ Daejeon 34141, Korea Profile: Gyeong Tae Lee PhD Candidate firstname.lastname@example.org HuMaN Lab., ME, KAIST Profile: Seong Hu Kim PhD Candidate email@example.com HuMaN Lab., ME, KAIST Profile: Hyeonuk Nam PhD Candidate firstname.lastname@example.org HuMaN Lab., ME, KAIST Profile: Young-Key Kim CEO email@example.com http://en.smins.co.kr/ SM Instruments Inc. Daejeon 34109, Korea (END)
Sulfur-Containing Polymer Generates High Refractive Index and Transparency
Transparent polymer thin film with refractive index exceeding 1.9 to serve as new platform materials for high-end optical device applications Researchers reported a novel technology enhancing the high transparency of refractive polymer film via a one-step vapor deposition process. The sulfur-containing polymer (SCP) film produced by Professor Sung Gap Im’s research team at KAIST’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering has exhibited excellent environmental stability and chemical resistance, which is highly desirable for its application in long-term optical device applications. The high refractive index exceeding 1.9 while being fully transparent in the entire visible range will help expand the applications of optoelectronic devices. The refractive index is a ratio of the speed of light in a vacuum to the phase velocity of light in a material, used as a measure of how much the path of light is bent when passing through a material. With the miniaturization of various optical parts used in mobile devices and imaging, demand has been rapidly growing for high refractive index transparent materials that induce more light refraction with a thin film. As polymers have outstanding physical properties and can be easily processed in various forms, they are widely used in a variety of applications such as plastic eyeglass lenses. However, there have been very few polymers developed so far with a refractive index exceeding 1.75, and existing high refractive index polymers require costly materials and complicated manufacturing processes. Above all, core technologies for producing such materials have been dominated by Japanese companies, causing long-standing challenges for Korean manufacturers. Securing a stable supply of high-performance, high refractive index materials is crucial for the production of optical devices that are lighter, more affordable, and can be freely manipulated. The research team successfully manufactured a whole new polymer thin film material with a refractive index exceeding 1.9 and excellent transparency, using just a one-step chemical reaction. The SCP film showed outstanding optical transparency across the entire visible light region, presumably due to the uniformly dispersed, short-segment polysulfide chains, which is a distinct feature unachievable in polymerizations with molten sulfur. The team focused on the fact that elemental sulfur is easily sublimated to produce a high refractive index polymer by polymerizing the vaporized sulfur with a variety of substances. This method suppresses the formation of overly long S-S chains while achieving outstanding thermal stability in high sulfur concentrations and generating transparent non-crystalline polymers across the entire visible spectrum. Due to the characteristics of the vapor phase process, the high refractive index thin film can be coated not just on silicon wafers or glass substrates, but on a wide range of textured surfaces as well. We believe this thin film polymer is the first to have achieved an ultrahigh refractive index exceeding 1.9. Professor Im said, “This high-performance polymer film can be created in a simple one-step manner, which is highly advantageous in the synthesis of SCPs with a high refractive index. This will serve as a platform material for future high-end optical device applications.” This study, in collaboration with research teams from Seoul National University and Kyung Hee University, was reported in Science Advances. (Title: One-Step Vapor-Phase Synthesis of Transparent High-Refractive Index Sulfur-Containing Polymers） This research was supported by the Ministry of Science and ICT’s Global Frontier Project (Center for Advanced Soft-Electronics), Leading Research Center Support Program (Wearable Platform Materials Technology Center), and Basic Science Research Program (Advanced Research Project).
Tinkering with Roundworm Proteins Offers Hope for Anti-aging Drugs
- The somatic nuclear protein kinase VRK-1 increases the worm’s lifespan through AMPK activation, and this mechanism can be applied to promoting human longevity, the study reveals. - KAIST researchers have been able to dial up and down creatures’ lifespans by altering the activity of proteins found in roundworm cells that tell them to convert sugar into energy when their cellular energy is running low. Humans also have these proteins, offering up the intriguing possibilities for developing longevity-promoting drugs. These new findings were published on July 1 in Science Advances. The roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans), a millimeter-long nematode commonly used in lab testing, enjoyed a boost in its lifespan when researchers tinkered with a couple of proteins involved in monitoring the energy use by its cells. The proteins VRK-1 and AMPK work in tandem in roundworm cells, with the former telling the latter to get to work by sticking a phosphate molecule, composed of one phosphorus and four oxygen atoms, on it. In turn, AMPK’s role is to monitor energy levels in cells, when cellular energy is running low. In essence, VRK-1 regulates AMPK, and AMPK regulates the cellular energy status. Using a range of different biological research tools, including introducing foreign genes into the worm, a group of researchers led by Professor Seung-Jae V. Lee from the Department of Biological Sciences at KAIST were able to dial up and down the activity of the gene that tells cells to produce the VRK-1 protein. This gene has remained pretty much unchanged throughout evolution. Most complex organisms have this same gene, including humans. Lead author of the study Sangsoon Park and his colleagues confirmed that the overexpression, or increased production, of the VRK-1 protein boosted the lifespan of the C. elegans, which normally lives just two to three weeks, and the inhibition of VRK-1 production reduced its lifespan. The research team found that the activity of the VRK-1-to-AMPK cellular-energy monitoring process is increased in low cellular energy status by reduced mitochondrial respiration, the set of metabolic chemical reactions that make use of the oxygen the worm breathes to convert macronutrients from food into the energy “currency” that cells spend to do everything they need to do. It is already known that mitochondria, the energy-producing engine rooms in cells, play a crucial role in aging, and declines in the functioning of mitochondria are associated with age-related diseases. At the same time, the mild inhibition of mitochondrial respiration has been shown to promote longevity in a range of species, including flies and mammals. When the research team performed similar tinkering with cultured human cells, they found they could also replicate this ramping up and down of the VRK-1-to-AMPK process that occurs in roundworms. “This raises the intriguing possibility that VRK-1 also functions as a factor in governing human longevity, and so perhaps we can start developing longevity-promoting drugs that alter the activity of VRK-1,” explained Professor Lee. At the very least, the research points us in an interesting direction for investigating new therapeutic strategies to combat metabolic disorders by targeting the modulation of VRK-1. Metabolic disorders involve the disruption of chemical reactions in the body, including diseases of the mitochondria. But before metabolic disorder therapeutics or longevity drugs can be contemplated by scientists, further research still needs to be carried out to better understand how VRK-1 works to activate AMPK, as well as figure out the precise mechanics of how AMPK controls cellular energy. This work was supported by the National Research Foundation (NRF), and the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) of Korea. Image credit: Seung-Jae V. LEE, 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: Park, S., et al. (2020) ‘VRK-1 extends life span by activation of AMPK via phosphorylation’. Science Advances, Volume 6. No. 27, eaaw7824. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aaw7824 Profile: Seung-Jae V. Lee, Ph.D. Professor firstname.lastname@example.org https://sites.google.com/view/mgakaist Molecular Genetics of Aging Laboratory Department of Biological Sciences Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) https://www.kaist.ac.krDaejeon 34141, Korea (END)
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