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The 10th KINC Fusion Research Awardees
The KAIST Institute for NanoCentury (KINC) recognized three distinguished researchers whose convergence studies made significant impacts. The KINC presented the 10th KINC Fusion Research Awards during a ceremony that took place at KAIST’s main campus in Daejeon on May 19. This year’s ‘best’ convergence research award went to a joint research group led by Professor Hee Tak Kim from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Professor Sang Ouk Kim from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. Their research, featured in the December 27 issue of Advanced Materials as a front cover article last year, introduced the world’s first high-energy efficiency, membraneless, flowless, zinc-bromine battery. This study, in which research professor Gyoung Hwa Jeong, postdoctoral researcher Yearin Byun, and PhD candidate Ju-Hyuck Lee took part as co-lead authors, is deemed as an example of a best practice in convergence research in which two groups’ respective expertise in the fields of carbon materials and electrochemical analysis created a synergistic effect. Professor Bumjoon Kim from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering was also recognized for having published the most interdisciplinary research papers on polymer electronics and nanomaterials at home and abroad. Professor Hee-Tae Jung, the Director of KINC and the host of the KINC Fusion Research Awards, said, “The KINC is happy to announce the 10th awardees in nano-fusion research this year. Since convergence is crucial for making revolutionary changes, the importance of convergence studies should be recognized. Our institute will spare no effort to create a research environment suitable for convergence studies, which will be crucial for making a significant difference.” The KINC was established in June 2006 under the KAIST Institute with the mission of facilitating convergence studies by tearing down boarders among departments and carrying out interdisciplinary joint research. Currently, the institute is comprised of approximately 90 professors from 13 departments. It aims to become a hub of university institutes for nano-fusion research. (END)
Highly Efficient Charge-to-Spin Interconversion in Graphene Heterostructures
Researchers present a new route for designing a graphene-based active spintronic component KAIST physicists described a route to design the energy-efficient generation, manipulation and detection of spin currents using nonmagnetic two-dimensional materials. The research team, led by Professor Sungjae Cho, observed highly efficient charge-to-spin interconversion via the gate-tunable Rashba-Edelstien effect (REE) in graphene heterostructures. This research paves the way for the application of graphene as an active spintronic component for generating, controlling, and detecting spin current without ferromagnetic electrodes or magnetic fields. Graphene is a promising spintronic component owing to its long spin diffusion length. However, its small spin-orbit coupling limits the potential of graphene in spintronic applications since graphene cannot be used to generate, control, or detect spin current. “We successfully increased the spin-orbit coupling of graphene by stacking graphene on top of 2H-TaS2, which is one of the transition metal dichalcogenide materials with the largest spin-orbit coupling. Graphene now can be used to generate, control, and detect spin current,” Professor Cho said. The Rashba-Edelstein effect is a physical mechanism that enables charge current-to-spin current interconversion by spin-dependent band structure induced by the Rashba effect, a momentum-dependent splitting of spin bands in low-dimensional condensed matter systems. Professor Cho’s group demonstrated the gate-tunable Rashba-Edelstein effect in a multilayer graphene for the first time. The Rahsba-Edelstein effect allows the two-dimensional conduction electrons of graphene to be magnetized by an applied charge current and form a spin current. Furthermore, as the Fermi level of graphene, tuned by gate voltage, moves from the valence to conduction band, the spin current generated by graphene reversed its spin direction. This spin reversal is useful in the design of low-power-consumption transistors utilizing spins in that it provides the carrier “On” state with spin up holes (or spin down electrons) and the "Off" state with zero net spin polarization at so called “charge neutrality point” where numbers of electrons and holes are equal. “Our work is the first demonstration of charge-to-spin interconversion in a metallic TMD (transition-metal dichalcogenides) and graphene heterostructure with a spin polarization state controlled by a gate. We expect that the all-electrical spin-switching effect and the reversal of non-equilibrium spin polarization by the application of gate voltage is applicable for the energy-efficient generation and manipulation of spin currents using nonmagnetic van der Waals materials,” explained Professor Cho. This study (https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acsnano.0c01037) was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea. Publication: Lijun Li, Jin Zhang, Gyuho Myeong, Wongil Shin, Hongsik Lim, Boram Kim, Seungho Kim, Taehyeok Jin, Stuart Cavill, Beom Seo Kim, Changyoung Kim, Johannes Lischner, Aires Ferreira, and Sungjae Cho, Gate-Tunable Reversible Rashba−Edelstein Effect in a Few-Layer Graphene/2H-TaS2 Heterostructure at Room Temperature. ACS Nano 2020. Link to download the paper: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acsnano.0c01037 Profile: Professor Sungjae Cho, PhD firstname.lastname@example.org http://qtak.kaist.ac.kr Department of Physics Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) https://www.kaist.ac.kr Daejeon 34141, Korea
New Charter of Respect and Loyalty between Professors and Graduate Students
KAIST established a ‘Charter of Respect and Loyalty between Professors and Graduate Students’. This new charter states measures to build trust between professors and graduate students, and improve the working conditions of graduate students. KAIST President Sung-Chul Shin and President of the KAIST Graduate Student Association (GSA) Hye-Jeong Han signed the charter as representatives of the professors and graduate students on May 18. KAIST has become the first university in Korea to officially proclaim a promise between the school and the student council for the betterment of conditions for graduate students, and the first to specifically guarantee full-time graduate students’ vacations. Graduate students have a unique status as both students receiving education and employees performing lab research. The GSA explained that “however, in reality, this unique status places them in a blind spot where they are not being fully entitled to their rights neither as employees nor students.” The newly established charter is a set of promises made between professors and graduate students to uphold the values of respect and loyalty, and to establish trust in each other. Professors should treat each student not only as someone they should teach thoroughly, but also as a human being who should be respected. The graduate student should also respect the professor, and diligently perform their educational and research duties. The charter also includes provisions stating that professors should provide minimum grants for the encouragement of research and education to the graduate students transparently and reasonably. In addition, professors must define a fixed number of hours that graduates students have to participate in education and research projects, and guarantee vacation leave for graduate students. Degree and graduation requirements should be clearly defined, and graduate students should devote themselves to education and research, and adhere to research ethics and safety measures. (END)
A Theoretical Boost to Nano-Scale Devices
- Researchers calculate the quasi-Fermi levels in molecular junctions applying an initio approach. - Semiconductor companies are struggling to develop devices that are mere nanometers in size, and much of the challenge lies in being able to more accurately describe the underlying physics at that nano-scale. But a new computational approach that has been in the works for a decade could break down these barriers. Devices using semiconductors, from computers to solar cells, have enjoyed tremendous efficiency improvements in the last few decades. Famously, one of the co-founders of Intel, Gordon Moore, observed that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubles about every two years—and this ‘Moore’s law’ held true for some time. In recent years, however, such gains have slowed as firms that attempt to engineer nano-scale transistors hit the limits of miniaturization at the atomic level. Researchers with the School of Electrical Engineering at KAIST have developed a new approach to the underlying physics of semiconductors. “With open quantum systems as the main research target of our lab, we were revisiting concepts that had been taken for granted and even appear in standard semiconductor physics textbooks such as the voltage drop in operating semiconductor devices,” said the lead researcher Professor Yong-Hoon Kim. “Questioning how all these concepts could be understood and possibly revised at the nano-scale, it was clear that there was something incomplete about our current understanding.” “And as the semiconductor chips are being scaled down to the atomic level, coming up with a better theory to describe semiconductor devices has become an urgent task.” The current understanding states that semiconductors are materials that act like half-way houses between conductors, like copper or steel, and insulators, like rubber or Styrofoam. They sometimes conduct electricity, but not always. This makes them a great material for intentionally controlling the flow of current, which in turn is useful for constructing the simple on/off switches—transistors—that are the foundation of memory and logic devices in computers. In order to ‘switch on’ a semiconductor, a current or light source is applied, exciting an electron in an atom to jump from what is called a ‘valence band,’ which is filled with electrons, up to the ‘conduction band,’ which is originally unfilled or only partially filled with electrons. Electrons that have jumped up to the conduction band thanks to external stimuli and the remaining ‘holes’ are now able to move about and act as charge carriers to flow electric current. The physical concept that describes the populations of the electrons in the conduction band and the holes in the valence band and the energy required to make this jump is formulated in terms of the so-called ‘Fermi level.’ For example, you need to know the Fermi levels of the electrons and holes in order to know what amount of energy you are going to get out of a solar cell, including losses. But the Fermi level concept is only straightforwardly defined so long as a semiconductor device is at equilibrium—sitting on a shelf doing nothing—and the whole point of semiconductor devices is not to leave them on the shelf. Some 70 years ago, William Shockley, the Nobel Prize-winning co-inventor of the transistor at the Bell Labs, came up with a bit of a theoretical fudge, the ‘quasi-Fermi level,’ or QFL, enabling rough prediction and measurement of the interaction between valence band holes and conduction band electrons, and this has worked pretty well until now. “But when you are working at the scale of just a few nanometers, the methods to theoretically calculate or experimentally measure the splitting of QFLs were just not available,” said Professor Kim. This means that at this scale, issues such as errors relating to voltage drop take on much greater significance. Kim’s team worked for nearly ten years on developing a novel theoretical description of nano-scale quantum electron transport that can replace the standard method—and the software that allows them to put it to use. This involved the further development of a bit of math known as the Density Functional Theory that simplifies the equations describing the interactions of electrons, and which has been very useful in other fields such as high-throughput computational materials discovery. For the first time, they were able to calculate the QFL splitting, offering a new understanding of the relationship between voltage drop and quantum electron transport in atomic scale devices. In addition to looking into various interesting non-equilibrium quantum phenomena with their novel methodology, the team is now further developing their software into a computer-aided design tool to be used by semiconductor companies for developing and fabricating advanced semiconductor devices. The study, featured at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA on May 12, was supported by the National Research Foundation and the Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information Supercomputing Center. Image caption: The newly developed formalism and QFL splitting analysis led to new ways of characterizing extremely scaled-down semiconductor devices and the technology computer-aided design (TCAD) of next- generation nano-electronic/energy/bio devices. Image credit: Yong-Hoon Kim, 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: Juho Lee, Hyeonwoo Yeo, and Yong-Hoon Kim. (2020) ‘Quasi-Fermi level splitting in nanoscale junctions from ab initio.’ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), Volume 117, Issue 19, pp.10142-101488. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1921273117 Profile: Yong-Hoon Kim Professor email@example.com http://nanocore.kaist.ac.kr/ 1st-Principles Nano-Device Computing Lab School of Electrical Engineering KAIST (END)
Hubo Debuts as a News Anchor
HUBO, a humanoid robot developed by Professor Jun-Ho Oh’s team, made its debut as a co-anchor during the TJB prime time news 8 on May 14. “Un-contact" became the new normal after Covid-19 and many business solutions are being transformed using robotics. HUBO made two news reports on contactless services using robots in medical, manufacturing, and logistics industries. HUBO 2, the second generation of HUBO, appeared as a special anchor on the local broadcasting network’s special program in celebration of its 25th anniversary. HUBO is the champion of the 2015 DARPA Robotics Challenge held in the USA. Its FX-2 riding robot also participated in the Olympic torch relay during the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Click here to watch a full video of HUBO anchoring the news. (END)
Dr. Dong-Hyun Cho at KARI Receives the 16th Jeong Hun Cho Award
Dr. Dong-Hyun Cho, a senior researcher at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), was honored as the recipient of the 16th Jeong Hun Cho Award. The award recognizes young scientists in the field of aerospace engineering. Dr. Cho earned his MS and PhD degrees from the KAIST Department of Aerospace Engineering in 2012, and served as a researcher at the Satellite Technology Research Center (SaTReC) at KAIST, before joining the Future Convergence Research Division at KARI. He won this year’s award and received 25 million KRW in prize money. Jeong Hun Cho, who was a PhD candidate in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at KAIST, passed away in a tragic lab accident in May 2003 and was awarded an honorary doctorate posthumously. His family endowed the award and scholarship in his memory. Since 2005, the scholarship has selected three young scholars every year who specialize in aerospace engineering from Cho’s alma maters of KAIST, Korea University, and Kongju National University High School. Dr. Dong-Hyun Cho was selected as this year’s awardee in recognition of his studies on the development and operation of KARISMA, a comprehensive software package for space debris collision risk management. Dr. Cho built a terrestrial testbed and produced a model for the development of a space debris elimination algorithm. He published six papers in SCI-level journals and wrote 35 symposium papers in the field of space development. He also applied or registered approximately 40 patents both in Korea and internationally. The Award Committee also selected three students as scholarship recipients: PhD candidate Yongtae Yun from the Department of Aerospace Engineering at KAIST received 4 million KRW, MS-PhD candidate Haun-Min Lee from the School of Mechanical Engineering at Korea University received 4 million KRW, and Seonju Yim from Kongju National University High School received 3 million KRW. (END)
Simple Molecular Reagents to Treat Alzheimer’s Disease
- Researchers report minimalistic principles for designing small molecules with multiple reactivities against dementia. - Sometimes the most complex problems actually have very simple solutions. A group of South Korean researchers reported an efficient and effective redox-based strategy for incorporating multiple functions into simple molecular reagents against neurodegenerative disorders. The team developed redox-active aromatic molecular reagents with a simple structural composition that can simultaneously target and modulate various pathogenic factors in complex neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most prevalent neurodegenerative disorders, affecting one in ten people over the age of 65. Early-onset dementia also increasingly affects younger people. A number of pathogenic elements such as reactive oxygen species, amyloid-beta, and metal ions have been suggested as potential causes of Alzheimer’s disease. Each element itself can lead to Alzheimer’s disease, but interactions between them may also aggravate the patient’s condition or interfere with the appropriate clinical care. For example, when interacting with amyloid-beta, metal ions foster the aggregation and accumulation of amyloid-beta peptides that can induce oxidative stress and toxicity in the brain and lead to neurodegeneration. Because these pathogenic factors of Alzheimer’s disease are intertwined, developing therapeutic agents that are capable of simultaneously regulating metal ion dyshomeostasis, amyloid-beta agglutination, and oxidative stress responses remains a key to halting the progression of the disease. A research team led by Professor Mi Hee Lim from the Department of Chemistry at KAIST demonstrated the feasibility of structure-mechanism-based molecular design for controlling a molecule’s chemical reactivity toward the various pathological factors of Alzheimer’s disease by tuning the redox properties of the molecule. This study, featured as the ‘ACS Editors’ Choice’ in the May 6th issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS), was conducted in conjunction with KAIST Professor Mu-Hyun Baik’s group and Professor Joo-Young Lee’s group at the Asan Medical Center. Professor Lim and her collaborators rationally designed and generated 10 compact aromatic molecules presenting a range of redox potentials by adjusting the electronic distribution of the phenyl, phenylene, or pyridyl moiety to impart redox-dependent reactivities against the multiple pathogenic factors in Alzheimer’s disease. During the team’s biochemical and biophysical studies, these designed molecular reagents displayed redox-dependent reactivities against numerous desirable targets that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease such as free radicals, metal-free amyloid-beta, and metal-bound amyloid-beta. Further mechanistic results revealed that the redox properties of these designed molecular reagents were essential for their function. The team demonstrated that these reagents engaged in oxidative reactions with metal-free and metal-bound amyloid-beta and led to chemical modifications. The products of such oxidative transformations were observed to form covalent adducts with amyloid-beta and alter its aggregation. Moreover, the administration of the most promising candidate molecule significantly attenuated the amyloid pathology in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease transgenic mice and improved their cognitive defects. Professor Lim said, “This strategy is straightforward, time-saving, and cost-effective, and its effect is significant. We are excited to help enable the advancement of new therapeutic agents for neurodegenerative disorders, which can improve the lives of so many patients.” This work was supported by the National Research Foundation (NRF) of Korea, the Institute for Basic Science (IBS), and the Asan Institute for Life Sciences. Image credit: Professor Mi Hee Lim, KAIST Image usage restrictions: News organizations may use or redistribute this image, with proper attribution, as part of the news coverage of this paper only. Publication: Kim, M. et al. (2020) ‘Minimalistic Principles for Designing Small Molecules with Multiple Reactivities against Pathological Factors in Dementia.’ Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS), Volume 142, Issue 18, pp.8183-8193. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1021/jacs.9b13100 Profile: Mi Hee Lim Professor firstname.lastname@example.org http://sites.google.com/site/miheelimlab Lim Laboratory Department of Chemistry KAIST Profile: Mu-Hyun Baik Professor email@example.com https://baik-laboratory.com/ Baik Laboratory Department of Chemistry KAIST Profile: Joo-Yong Lee Professor firstname.lastname@example.org Asan Institute for Life Sciences Asan Medical Center (END)
Researchers Present a Microbial Strain Capable of Massive Succinic Acid Production
A research team led by Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee reported the production of a microbial strain capable of the massive production of succinic acid with the highest production efficiency to date. This strategy of integrating systems metabolic engineering with enzyme engineering will be useful for the production of industrially competitive bio-based chemicals. Their strategy was described in Nature Communications on April 23. The bio-based production of industrial chemicals from renewable non-food biomass has become increasingly important as a sustainable substitute for conventional petroleum-based production processes relying on fossil resources. Here, systems metabolic engineering, which is the key component for biorefinery technology, is utilized to effectively engineer the complex metabolic pathways of microorganisms to enable the efficient production of industrial chemicals. Succinic acid, a four-carbon dicarboxylic acid, is one of the most promising platform chemicals serving as a precursor for industrially important chemicals. Among microorganisms producing succinic acid, Mannheimia succiniciproducens has been proven to be one of the best strains for succinic acid production. The research team has developed a bio-based succinic acid production technology using the M. succiniciproducens strain isolated from the rumen of Korean cow for over 20 years and succeeded in developing a strain capable of producing succinic acid with the highest production efficiency. They carried out systems metabolic engineering to optimize the succinic acid production pathway of the M. succiniciproducens strain by determining the crystal structure of key enzymes important for succinic acid production and performing protein engineering to develop enzymes with better catalytic performance. As a result, 134 g per liter of succinic acid was produced from the fermentation of an engineered strain using glucose, glycerol, and carbon dioxide. They were able to achieve 21 g per liter per hour of succinic acid production, which is one of the key factors determining the economic feasibility of the overall production process. This is the world’s best succinic acid production efficiency reported to date. Previous production methods averaged 1~3 g per liter per hour. Distinguished professor Sang Yup Lee explained that his team’s work will significantly contribute to transforming the current petrochemical-based industry into an eco-friendly bio-based one. “Our research on the highly efficient bio-based production of succinic acid from renewable non-food resources and carbon dioxide has provided a basis for reducing our strong dependence on fossil resources, which is the main cause of the environmental crisis,” Professor Lee said. This work was supported by the Technology Development Program to Solve Climate Changes via Systems Metabolic Engineering for Biorefineries and the C1 Gas Refinery Program from the Ministry of Science and ICT through the National Research Foundation of Korea.
Professor Sukyung Park Named Presidential Science and Technology Adviser
Professor Sukyung Park from the Department of Mechanical Engineering was appointed as the science and technology adviser to the President Jae-in Moon on May 4. Professor Park, at the age of 47, became the youngest member of the president’s senior aide team at Chong Wa Dae. A Chong Wa Dae spokesman said on May 4 while announcing the appointment, “Professor Park, a talent with a great deal of policymaking participation in science and technology, will contribute to accelerating the government’s push for science and technology innovation, especially in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector.” Professor Park joined KAIST in 2004 as the first female professor of mechanical engineering. She is a biomechanics expert who has conducted extensive research on biometric mechanical behaviors. Professor Park is also a member of the KAIST Board of Trustees. Before that, she served as a senior researcher at the Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials (KIMM) as well as a member of the Presidential Advisory Council on Science and Technology. After graduating from Seoul Science High School as the first ever two-year graduate, Professor Park earned a bachelor and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering at KAIST. She then finished her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. (END)
Breastfeeding Helps Prevent Mothers from Developing Diabetes after Childbirth
A team of South Korean researchers found that lactation can lower the incidence and reduce the risk of maternal postpartum diabetes. The researchers identified that lactation increases the mass and function of pancreatic beta cells through serotonin production. The team suggested that sustained improvements in pancreatic beta cells, which can last for years even after the cessation of lactation, improve mothers’ metabolic health in addition to providing health benefits for infants. Pregnancy imposes a substantial metabolic burden on women through weight gain and increased insulin resistance. Various other factors, including a history of gestational diabetes, maternal age, and obesity, further affect women’s risk of progressing to diabetes after delivery, and the risk of postpartum diabetes increases more in women who have had gestational diabetes and/or repeated deliveries. Diabetes-related complications include damage to blood vessels, which can lead to cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke, and problems with the nerves, eyes, kidneys, and many more. Since diabetes can pose a serious threat to mothers’ metabolic health, the management of maternal metabolic risk factors is important, especially in the peripartum period. Previous epidemiological studies have reported that lactation reduces the risk of postpartum diabetes, but the mechanisms underlying this benefit have remained elusive. The study, published in Science Translational Medicine on April 29, explains the biology underpinning this observation on the beneficial effects of lactation. Professor Hail Kim from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering at KAIST led and jointly conducted the study in conjunction with researchers from the Seoul National University Bundang Hospital (SNUBH) and Chungnam National University (CNU) in Korea, and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) in the US. In their study, the team observed that the milk-secreting hormone ‘prolactin’ in lactating mothers not only promotes milk production, but also plays a major role in stimulating insulin-secreting pancreatic beta cells that regulate blood glucose in the body. The researchers also found that ‘serotonin’, known as a chemical that contributes to wellbeing and happiness, is produced in pancreatic beta cells during lactation. Serotonin in pancreatic beta cells act as an antioxidant and reduce oxidative stress, making mothers’ beta cells healthier. Serotonin also induces the proliferation of beta cells, thereby increasing the beta cell mass and helping maintain proper glucose levels. The research team conducted follow-up examinations on a total of 174 postpartum women, 85 lactated and 99 non-lactated, at two months postpartum and annually thereafter for at least three years. The results demonstrated that mothers who had undergone lactation improved pancreatic beta cell mass and function, and showed improved glucose homeostasis with approximately 20mg/dL lower glucose levels, thereby reducing the risk of postpartum diabetes in women. Surprisingly, this beneficial effect was maintained after the cessation of lactation, for more than three years after delivery. Professor Kim said, “We are happy to prove that lactation benefits female metabolic health by improving beta cell mass and function as well as glycemic control.” “Our future studies on the modulation of the molecular serotonergic pathway in accordance with the management of maternal metabolic risk factors may lead to new therapeutics to help prevent mothers from developing metabolic disorders,” he added. This work was supported by grants from the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the National Research Council of Science and Technology (NST) of Korea, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Larry L. Hillblom Foundation, and the Health Fellowship Foundation. Image credit: Professor Hail Kim, 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: Moon, J. H et al. (2020) ‘Lactation improves pancreatic β cell mass and function through serotonin production.’ Science Translational Medicine, 12, eaay0455. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1126/scitranslmed.aay0455 Profile: Hail Kim, MD, PhD email@example.com Associate Professor Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering (GSMSE) Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) Profile: Hak Chul Jang, MD, PhD firstname.lastname@example.org Professor Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism Seoul National University Bundang Hospital (SNUBH) President Korean Diabetes Association Profile: Joon Ho Moon, MD, PhD email@example.com Clinical Fellow Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism SNUBH Profile: Hyeongseok Kim, MD, PhD firstname.lastname@example.org Assistant Professor Chungnam National University (CNU) Profile: Professor Michael S. German, MD Michael.German@ucsf.edu Professor Diabetes Center University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) (END)
A Study Finds Neuropeptide Somatostatin Enhances Visual Processing
Researchers have confirmed that neuropeptide somatostatin can improve cognitive function in the brain. A research group of Professor Seung-Hee Lee from the Department of Biological Sciences at KAIST found that the application of neuropeptide somatostatin improves visual processing and cognitive behaviors by reducing excitatory inputs to parvalbumin-positive interneurons in the cortex. This study, reported at Science Advances on April 22nd (EST), sheds a new light on the therapeutics of neurodegenerative diseases. According to a recent study in Korea, one in ten seniors over 65 is experiencing dementia-related symptoms in their daily lives such like memory loss, cognitive decline, and motion function disorders. Professor Lee believes that somatostatin treatment can be directly applied to the recovery of cognitive functions in Alzheimer’s disease patients. Professor Lee started this study noting the fact that the level of somatostatin expression was dramatically decreased in the cerebral cortex and cerebrospinal fluid of Alzheimer’s disease patients Somatostatin-expressing neurons in the cortex are known to exert the dendritic inhibition of pyramidal neurons via GABAergic transmission. Previous studies focused on their inhibitory effects on cortical circuits, but somatostatin-expressing neurons can co-release somatostatin upon activation. Despite the abundant expression of somatostatin and its receptors in the cerebral cortex, it was not known if somatostatin could modulate cognitive processing in the cortex. The research team demonstrated that the somatostatin treatment into the cerebral cortex could enhance visual processing and cognitive behaviors in mice. The research team combined behaviors, in vivo and in vitro electrophysiology, and electron microscopy techniques to reveal how the activation of somatostatin receptors in vivo enhanced the ability of visual recognition in animals. Interestingly, somatostatin release can reduce excitatory synaptic transmission to another subtype of GABAergic interneurons, parvalbumin (PV)-expressing neurons. As somatostatin is a stable and safe neuropeptide expressed naturally in the mammalian brain, it was safe to be injected into the cortex and cerebrospinal fluid, showing a potential application to drug development for curing cognitive disorders in humans. Professor Lee said, “Our research confirmed the key role of the neuropeptide SST in modulating cortical function and enhancing cognitive ability in the mammalian brain. I hope new drugs can be developed based on the function of somatostatin to treat cognitive disabilities in many patients suffering from neurological disorders.” This study was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea. Publication: Song, Y. H et al. (2020) ‘Somatostatin enhances visual processing and perception by suppressing excitatory inputs to parvalbumin-positive interneurons in V1’, Science Advances, 6(17). Available online at https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aaz0517 Profile: Seung-Hee Lee Associate Professor email@example.com https://sites.google.com/site/leelab2013/ Sensory Processing Lab (SPL) Department of Biological Sciences (BIO) Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) Profile: You-Hyang Song Researcher (Ph.D.) firstname.lastname@example.org SPL, KAIST BIO Profile: Yang-Sun Hwang Researcher (M.S.) email@example.com SPL, KAIST BIO (END)
Long Economic Depressions and Disparities Loom in the Wake of the COVID-19
"Global Cooperation for Managing Data Key to Mitigating the Impacts Around the World" <Full recorded video of the GSI-IF2020> The COVID-19 pandemic will lead to long economic depressions around the entire world. Experts predicted that the prevalent inequities among the countries, regions, and individuals will aggravate the economic crisis. However, crises always come with new opportunities and international cooperation and solidarity will help creating a new normal in the post-coronavirus era. In a very basic but urgent step, global cooperation for managing data is the key to respond to COVID-19 since medicine and healthcare are intertwined with data science, said experts during an online international forum hosted by the Global Strategy Institute at KAIST on April 22. KAIST launched its think-tank, the Global Strategy Institute (GSI), in February. The GSI aims to identify global issues proactively and help make breakthroughs well aligned with solid science-based policies. The inaugural forum of the GSI focused on how the COVID-19 pandemic would impact socio-economic, scientific, and political landscapes, under the theme “Global Cooperation in the Coronavirus Era.” In his opening remarks, KAIST President Sung-Chul Shin stressed that future global governance will be dominated by the power of science and technology. “If we can implement efficient policies together with troubleshooting technology for responding to future crises, we will emerge stronger than before,” he said. President Shin said ‘the Korean model’, which is being recognized as a shining example for dealing with the pandemic, is the result of collaborations combining the creativity of the private sector, the public sector’s strong infrastructure, and the full support of the citizens. He added, “Without the technological prowess coming from the competent R&D power of Korea, we could not achieve these impressive results.” “Creative collaboration among the private and public sectors, along with research universities from around the world, will help shore up global resilience against the epidemic. We should work together to build a world of growing prosperity,” President Shin said. Prime Minister Sye-Kyun Chung, who is in charge of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters in Korea, stressed global solidarity in his welcoming remarks, saying that “We need to share information and rely on the strength of our connections, rather than retreating into nationalistic isolation.” Peter Lee, Vice President of the Microsoft Healthcare, pointed out in his welcoming remarks three critical sectors for global cooperation: medicine and healthcare, public health and prevention, and life and the economy. He emphasized the rule of thumb for managing data, saying that data in these fields should be open, standardized, and shared among countries to combat this global pandemic. During a keynote session, Director General of the International Vaccine Institute (IVI) Jerome Kim described the challenges that go along with developing a vaccine. Dr. Kim said that only 7% of vaccine candidates go through the clinical trial stages, and it will take five to 10 years to completely prove a new vaccine’s safety after completing three stages of clinical tests. “It’s very challenging to develop the vaccine for COVID-19 within 12 to 15 months,” said Dr. Kim. He added that 78 out of 115 candidates are currently undergoing clinical trials around the world. There are five groups, including Moderna, Inovio, Jenner Institute, CanSino, and the Beijing Institute of Biological Products, who are doing clinical trials in phases 1 and 2. “Given the fact that COVID-19 is a totally new type of virus, various stakeholders’ participation, such as the National Immunization Technical Advisory Groups, the WHO, and UNICEF, is needed to work together to benefit the entire world,” he pointed out. Professor Edward Yoonjae Choi from the Graduate School of AI at KAIST shared how AI and data sciences are being utilized to interpret the major trends of the epidemic. His group mainly focuses on deep learning to model electronic health records (EHR) for disease predictions. Professor Choi said AI and machine learning would be crucial solutions and collaborative research projects will surely accelerate how quickly we can overcome the pandemic. In addition, Dr. Kijung Shin’s group is interpreting the SIR (Susceptible, Infected, and Recovered) model in Korea to predict the number of infections and when people were infected. However, researchers noticed that they could not see the typical modeling in Korea for predicting the number of infections since the model disregarded the new variable of humans’ efforts to stop the spread the virus. According to research by Professor Steven Whang’s group on social distancing and face mask distribution among vulnerable age groups, people in their 20s, 60s, and 70s followed the social distancing guidelines the most strictly. The research team analyzed the data provided by SK Telecom in the Gangnam district of Seoul. The data provided on people in their 70s, a group that accounted for half of all fatalities, showed that masks were generally well distributed nationwide. Dr. Alexandros Papaspyrids, Tertiary Education Industry Director of the Asia region of Microsoft, said that despite all the disadvantages and problems related to remote education, we shouldn’t expect to return to the days before the COVID-19 any time soon. “We should accept the new normal and explore new opportunities in the new educational environment,” he said. Hongtaek Yong, Deputy Minister at the Office of R&D Policy at the Ministry of Science and ICT presented the Korean government’s disease prevention and response policy and how they tried to mitigate the economic and social impact. He stressed the government’s fast testing, tracing, and openness for successfully flattening the curve, adding that the government used an ICT-based approach in all aspects of their response. From early this year when the first patient was reported, the government aggressively encouraged the biotech industry to develop diagnostic kits and novel therapeutic medications. As a result, five companies were able to produce genetic diagnostic reagents through the emergency approval. More notably, four of them are conducting massive R&D projects sponsored by the government and this is the result of the government’s continuous investment in R&D. Korea is the leader in R&D investment among the OECD countries. According to Yong, the government’s big data project that was launched in 2017 continuously traces the trends of epidemics in Korea. The epidemiological studies based on the paths taken by suspected patients using credit card transaction made the difference in predicting the spread of the coronavirus and implementing countermeasures. The data has been provided to the Korea’s Center for Disease Control (CDC). “In addition to the epidemics, we have so many other pending issues arising from digital and social equities, un-contact services, and job security. We are very open to collaborate and cooperate with other countries to deal with this global crisis,” Yong said. During the subsequent panel discussions, David Dollar, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said, “The global economy in the coronavirus era will not have a rapid V-shaped recovery, but rather will fall into a long depression for at least two years.” He pointed out that if countries practice protectionism like they did during the Great Depression, the recession will be even worse. Hence, he urged the international community, especially developed nations, to avoid protectionism, consider the economic difficulties of developing countries, and provide them with financial support. Co-Director of the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution Rebecca Winthrop raised concerns over the recent shift to online teaching and learning, claiming that insufficient infrastructures in low-income families in developing nations are already causing added educational disparities and provoking the inequity issue around the world. “The ways to provide quality education equally through faster and more effective means should be studied,” she said. Professor Joungho Kim, the director of the KAIST GSI and the forum’s organizer, concluded the event by saying that this forum will be a valuable resource for everyone who is providing assistance to those in need, both during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. (END)
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