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Professor Il-Doo Kim Receives the Science Minister’s Award
Professor Il-Doo Kim from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering received the Science and ICT Minister’s Award in recognition of his commercialization and technology transfer achievements during the Day of IP celebration. Professor Kim, who has made over 222 patents application and registration home and abroad, has advanced toxic gas detection and breath gas sensor technology by arraying nanosensor fibers. His technological advances in micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) helped to advance the commercialization of the MEMS-related sensor and improve its overall competitiveness. He founded the Il-Doo Kim Research Center in 2019 and focuses on the commercialization of nanofiber manufacturing through electrospinning and highly efficient nanofiber filters. For instance, he succeeded in manufacturing a nano-filter recyclable mask that maintains excellent filtering efficiency even after hand washing through the development of proprietary technology that aligns nanofibers with a diameter of 100~500 nanometers in orthogonal or unidirectional directions. Professor Kim also serves as an associate editor at ACS Nano. He said, “The importance of IP goes without saying. I look forward to the registration and application of more KAIST patents leading to commercialization, paving the way for national technological competitiveness.”
MCM Utilized at Residential Treatment Center in Gyeonggi
The Mobile Clinic Module (MCM) developed by the KAIST Action for Respiratory Epidemics was installed at special residential treatment center in Gyeonggi Province on September 13. The MCM is an isolate negative pressure unit fitted with high-quality medical equipment, developed by Professor Taek-Jin Nam of the Department of Industrial Design under the KAIST New Deal R&D Initiative. This is also a part of the Korean Disease Control Package Development Project from last July. In January, a ward with four beds for critical care was installed at the Korea Institute for Radiological & Medical Sciences in Seoul for a trial operation, and two mild cases were treated there. It was also implemented as an isolated negative pressure unit in the Daejeon Konyang University Hospital emergency room in June, and has treated 138 cases since. The special residential treatment center installed in the Gyeonggi Provincial Academy gymnasium, which consists of 28 beds in 14 rooms (double occupancy) and a multipurpose room (for X-rays and treatment), is to remain open through October 10. Unlike existing treatment centers that have quarantined COVID-19 patients for two weeks, the Gyeonggi MCM will act as a self-treatment-associated short-term treatment center. While in self-treatment, patients showing symptoms requiring special attention will be moved to the MCM, followed by short-term hospitalization of 1-3 days for observation before further measures are taken. Patients can be treated using the MCM’s own treatment capacities, including in-person and oxygen treatment, X-rays, and IVs. There are individual bathrooms in each room, and the pressure, ventilation, and the automatic opening and closing of the entrance can be centrally monitored and controlled. Patients showing symptoms during treatment will be moved to a specially designated hospital for critical care, and will return to the self-treatment center if no further abnormalities are reported. The Gyeonggi Provincial Medical Center’s Ansung Hospital will take charge of operating the special treatment center. Each day, one or two doctors, three nurses, two nursing assistants, one administrative staff member, two or three disinfection specialists, and a medical imaging engineer will work in three shifts. There will also be about 20 additional specially designated staff members including KAIST researchers, firefighters, and police officers. The MCM was internationally recognized as an excellent medical facility not only for its functionality, economic feasibility, and utility, but also for its unique design and aesthetics. It received two Best of Best awards at the Red Dot Award in product design and Communication Design in user interface. By running this special treatment center, KAIST will conduct research on how to build an optimized model for efficient negative pressure medical units. This research is expected to lead to advances in waste water treatment systems, mobile bathrooms optimized for infectious cases, and MCM user interfaces for electronic devices, etc. Professor Taek-Jin Nam, the general director of the project and design, said “if there is a gymnasium available, we can convert it into a special treatment center fitted with a waste water treatment system, and pressure equipment in two weeks even without additional infrastructure.” The head of the KAIST New Deal R&D Initiative Choongsik Bae said, “our MCM research started in July of last year, and in just over a year, it has become a successful and innovative case that has undergone trials and become commercialized in a short period of time.” He added, “In response to COVID-19, KAIST is conducting research and empirical studies, not just in relation to the MCM, but in other areas of disease control as well.” Based on the excellent disease control technologies developed by KAIST research teams, the KAIST Action for Respiratory Epidemics is conducting technology transfers and industrialization, and is developing a Korean disease control package model
How Stingrays Became the Most Efficient Swimmers in Nature
Study shows the hydrodynamic benefits of protruding eyes and mouth in a self-propelled flexible stingray With their compressed bodies and flexible pectoral fins, stingrays have evolved to become one of nature’s most efficient swimmers. Scientists have long wondered about the role played by their protruding eyes and mouths, which one might expect to be hydrodynamic disadvantages. Professor Hyung Jin Sung and his colleagues have discovered how such features on simulated stingrays affect a range of forces involved in propulsion, such as pressure and vorticity. Despite what one might expect, their research team found these protruding features actually help streamline the stingrays. ‘The influence of the 3D protruding eyes and mouth on a self-propelled flexible stingray and its underlying hydrodynamic mechanism are not yet fully understood,” said Professor Sung. “In the present study, the hydrodynamic benefit of protruding eyes and mouth was explored for the first time, revealing their hydrodynamic role.” To illustrate the complex interplay between hydrodynamic forces, the researchers set to work creating a computer model of a self-propelled flexible plate. They clamped the front end of the model and then forced it to mimic the up-and-down harmonic oscillations stingrays use to propel themselves. To re-create the effect of the eyes and mouth on the surrounding water, the team simulated multiple rigid plates on the model. They compared this model to one without eyes and a mouth using a technique called the penalty immersed boundary method. “Managing random fish swimming and isolating the desired purpose of the measurements from numerous factors was difficult,” Sung said. “To overcome these limitations, the penalty immersed boundary method was adopted to find the hydrodynamic benefits of the protruding eyes and mouth.” The team discovered that the eyes and mouth generated a vortex of flow in the forward-backward , which increased negative pressure at the simulated animal’s front, and a side-to-side vortex that increased the pressure difference above and below the stingray. The result was increased thrust and accelerated cruising. Further analysis showed that the eyes and mouth increased overall propulsion efficiency by more than 20.5% and 10.6%, respectively. Researchers hope their work, driven by curiosity, further stokes interest in exploring fluid phenomena in nature. They are hoping to find ways to adapt this for next-generation water vehicle designs based more closely on marine animals. This study was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea and the State Scholar Fund from the China Scholarship Council. -ProfileProfessor Hyung Jin SungDepartment of Mechanical EngineeringKAIST -PublicationHyung Jin Sung, Qian Mao, Ziazhen Zhao, Yingzheng Liu, “Hydrodynamic benefits of protruding eyes and mouth in a self-propelled flexible stingray,” Aug.31, 2021, Physics of Fluids (https://doi.org/10.1063/5.0061287) -News release from the American Institute of Physics, Aug.31, 2021
Aline and Blow-yancy Win the Red Dot Design Awards: Brand & Communications Design 2021
Professor Lee sought ‘sustainability’ while developing Aline to meet the growing awareness of ESG (environmental, social, and governance) investing. ESG investing relies on independent ratings that help consumers assess a company’s behavior and policies when it comes to its social impact. Aline’s personal value index with six main criteria translates values into sustainable finance. By gathering data from the initial survey and regular value updates, the index is weighted according to the user’s values. Based on the index, the investment portfolio will be adjusted, and consumption against the values will be tracked. Blow-yancy is a diving VR device for neutral buoyancy training. Blow-yancy’s VR mask helps divers feel like they are wearing an actual diving mask. Users can breathe through a regulator with a built-in breathing sensor. It allows training like actual diving without going into the water, therefore enabling safer diving. “We got an idea that about 74% of scuba divers come into contact with corals underwater at least once and that can cause an emergency situation. Divers who cannot maintain neutral buoyance will experience a tough time avoiding them,” said Professor Lee. The hardware consists of a nose covering VR mask, a regulator with a built-in breath sensor, and a controller for virtual BCD control. Blow-yancy’s five virtual missions were organized according to the diving process required by PADI, a professional diving education institute. Professor Lee’s team already received eight recognitions at the iF Design Award in April. Professor Lee said, “We will continue to develop the best UX design items that will improve our global recognition.”
A Mechanism Underlying Most Common Cause of Epileptic Seizures Revealed
An interdisciplinary study shows that neurons carrying somatic mutations in MTOR can lead to focal epileptogenesis via non-cell-autonomous hyperexcitability of nearby nonmutated neurons During fetal development, cells should migrate to the outer edge of the brain to form critical connections for information transfer and regulation in the body. When even a few cells fail to move to the correct location, the neurons become disorganized and this results in focal cortical dysplasia. This condition is the most common cause of seizures that cannot be controlled with medication in children and the second most common cause in adults. Now, an interdisciplinary team studying neurogenetics, neural networks, and neurophysiology at KAIST has revealed how dysfunctions in even a small percentage of cells can cause disorder across the entire brain. They published their results on June 28 in Annals of Neurology. The work builds on a previous finding, also by a KAIST scientists, who found that focal cortical dysplasia was caused by mutations in the cells involved in mTOR, a pathway that regulates signaling between neurons in the brain. “Only 1 to 2% of neurons carrying mutations in the mTOR signaling pathway that regulates cell signaling in the brain have been found to include seizures in animal models of focal cortical dysplasia,” said Professor Jong-Woo Sohn from the Department of Biological Sciences. “The main challenge of this study was to explain how nearby non-mutated neurons are hyperexcitable.” Initially, the researchers hypothesized that the mutated cells affected the number of excitatory and inhibitory synapses in all neurons, mutated or not. These neural gates can trigger or halt activity, respectively, in other neurons. Seizures are a result of extreme activity, called hyperexcitability. If the mutated cells upend the balance and result in more excitatory cells, the researchers thought, it made sense that the cells would be more susceptible to hyperexcitability and, as a result, seizures. “Contrary to our expectations, the synaptic input balance was not changed in either the mutated or non-mutated neurons,” said Professor Jeong Ho Lee from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering. “We turned our attention to a protein overproduced by mutated neurons.” The protein is adenosine kinase, which lowers the concentration of adenosine. This naturally occurring compound is an anticonvulsant and works to relax vessels. In mice engineered to have focal cortical dysplasia, the researchers injected adenosine to replace the levels lowered by the protein. It worked and the neurons became less excitable. “We demonstrated that augmentation of adenosine signaling could attenuate the excitability of non-mutated neurons,” said Professor Se-Bum Paik from the Department of Bio and Brain Engineering. The effect on the non-mutated neurons was the surprising part, according to Paik. “The seizure-triggering hyperexcitability originated not in the mutation-carrying neurons, but instead in the nearby non-mutated neurons,” he said. The mutated neurons excreted more adenosine kinase, reducing the adenosine levels in the local environment of all the cells. With less adenosine, the non-mutated neurons became hyperexcitable, leading to seizures. “While we need further investigate into the relationship between the concentration of adenosine and the increased excitation of nearby neurons, our results support the medical use of drugs to activate adenosine signaling as a possible treatment pathway for focal cortical dysplasia,” Professor Lee said. The Suh Kyungbae Foundation, the Korea Health Technology Research and Development Project, the Ministry of Health & Welfare, and the National Research Foundation in Korea funded this work. -Publication:Koh, H.Y., Jang, J., Ju, S.H., Kim, R., Cho, G.-B., Kim, D.S., Sohn, J.-W., Paik, S.-B. and Lee, J.H. (2021), ‘Non–Cell Autonomous Epileptogenesis in Focal Cortical Dysplasia’ Annals of Neurology, 90: 285 299. (https://doi.org/10.1002/ana.26149) -ProfileProfessor Jeong Ho Lee Translational Neurogenetics Labhttps://tnl.kaist.ac.kr/ Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering KAIST Professor Se-Bum Paik Visual System and Neural Network Laboratory http://vs.kaist.ac.kr/ Department of Bio and Brain EngineeringKAIST Professor Jong-Woo Sohn Laboratory for Neurophysiology, https://sites.google.com/site/sohnlab2014/home Department of Biological SciencesKAIST Dr. Hyun Yong Koh Translational Neurogenetics LabGraduate School of Medical Science and EngineeringKAIST Dr. Jaeson Jang Ph.D.Visual System and Neural Network LaboratoryDepartment of Bio and Brain Engineering KAIST Sang Hyeon Ju M.D.Laboratory for NeurophysiologyDepartment of Biological SciencesKAIST
Brain-Inspired Highly Scalable Neuromorphic Hardware Presented
Neurons and synapses based on single transistor can dramatically reduce the hardware cost and accelerate the commercialization of neuromorphic hardware KAIST researchers fabricated a brain-inspired highly scalable neuromorphic hardware by co-integrating single transistor neurons and synapses. Using standard silicon complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) technology, the neuromorphic hardware is expected to reduce chip cost and simplify fabrication procedures. The research team led by Yang-Kyu Choi and Sung-Yool Choi produced a neurons and synapses based on single transistor for highly scalable neuromorphic hardware and showed the ability to recognize text and face images. This research was featured in Science Advances on August 4. Neuromorphic hardware has attracted a great deal of attention because of its artificial intelligence functions, but consuming ultra-low power of less than 20 watts by mimicking the human brain. To make neuromorphic hardware work, a neuron that generates a spike when integrating a certain signal, and a synapse remembering the connection between two neurons are necessary, just like the biological brain. However, since neurons and synapses constructed on digital or analog circuits occupy a large space, there is a limit in terms of hardware efficiency and costs. Since the human brain consists of about 1011 neurons and 1014 synapses, it is necessary to improve the hardware cost in order to apply it to mobile and IoT devices. To solve the problem, the research team mimicked the behavior of biological neurons and synapses with a single transistor, and co-integrated them onto an 8-inch wafer. The manufactured neuromorphic transistors have the same structure as the transistors for memory and logic that are currently mass-produced. In addition, the neuromorphic transistors proved for the first time that they can be implemented with a ‘Janus structure’ that functions as both neuron and synapse, just like coins have heads and tails. Professor Yang-Kyu Choi said that this work can dramatically reduce the hardware cost by replacing the neurons and synapses that were based on complex digital and analog circuits with a single transistor. "We have demonstrated that neurons and synapses can be implemented using a single transistor," said Joon-Kyu Han, the first author. "By co-integrating single transistor neurons and synapses on the same wafer using a standard CMOS process, the hardware cost of the neuromorphic hardware has been improved, which will accelerate the commercialization of neuromorphic hardware,” Han added.This research was supported by the National Research Foundation (NRF) and IC Design Education Center (IDEC). -PublicationJoon-Kyu Han, Sung-Yool Choi, Yang-Kyu Choi, et al.“Cointegration of single-transistor neurons and synapses by nanoscale CMOS fabrication for highly scalable neuromorphic hardware,” Science Advances (DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abg8836) -ProfileProfessor Yang-Kyu ChoiNano-Oriented Bio-Electronics Labhttps://sites.google.com/view/nobelab/ School of Electrical EngineeringKAIST Professor Sung-Yool ChoiMolecular and Nano Device Laboratoryhttps://www.mndl.kaist.ac.kr/ School of Electrical EngineeringKAIST
3D Visualization and Quantification of Bioplastic PHA in a Living Bacterial Cell
3D holographic microscopy leads to in-depth analysis of bacterial cells accumulating the bacterial bioplastic, polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) A research team at KAIST has observed how bioplastic granule is being accumulated in living bacteria cells through 3D holographic microscopy. Their 3D imaging and quantitative analysis of the bioplastic ‘polyhydroxyalkanoate’ (PHA) via optical diffraction tomography provides insights into biosynthesizing sustainable substitutes for petroleum-based plastics. The bio-degradable polyester polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) is being touted as an eco-friendly bioplastic to replace existing synthetic plastics. While carrying similar properties to general-purpose plastics such as polyethylene and polypropylene, PHA can be used in various industrial applications such as container packaging and disposable products. PHA is synthesized by numerous bacteria as an energy and carbon storage material under unbalanced growth conditions in the presence of excess carbon sources. PHA exists in the form of insoluble granules in the cytoplasm. Previous studies on investigating in vivo PHA granules have been performed by using fluorescence microscopy, transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and electron cryotomography. These techniques have generally relied on the statistical analysis of multiple 2D snapshots of fixed cells or the short-time monitoring of the cells. For the TEM analysis, cells need to be fixed and sectioned, and thus the investigation of living cells was not possible. Fluorescence-based techniques require fluorescence labeling or dye staining. Thus, indirect imaging with the use of reporter proteins cannot show the native state of PHAs or cells, and invasive exogenous dyes can affect the physiology and viability of the cells. Therefore, it was difficult to fully understand the formation of PHA granules in cells due to the technical limitations, and thus several mechanism models based on the observations have been only proposed. The team of metabolic engineering researchers led by Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee and Physics Professor YongKeun Park, who established the startup Tomocube with his 3D holographic microscopy, reported the results of 3D quantitative label-free analysis of PHA granules in individual live bacterial cells by measuring the refractive index distributions using optical diffraction tomography. The formation and growth of PHA granules in the cells of Cupriavidus necator, the most-studied native PHA (specifically, poly(3-hydroxybutyrate), also known as PHB) producer, and recombinant Escherichia coli harboring C. necator PHB biosynthesis pathway were comparatively examined. From the reconstructed 3D refractive index distribution of the cells, the team succeeded in the 3D visualization and quantitative analysis of cells and intracellular PHA granules at a single-cell level. In particular, the team newly presented the concept of “in vivo PHA granule density.” Through the statistical analysis of hundreds of single cells accumulating PHA granules, the distinctive differences of density and localization of PHA granules in the two micro-organisms were found. Furthermore, the team identified the key protein that plays a major role in making the difference that enabled the characteristics of PHA granules in the recombinant E. coli to become similar to those of C. necator. The research team also presented 3D time-lapse movies showing the actual processes of PHA granule formation combined with cell growth and division. Movies showing the living cells synthesizing and accumulating PHA granules in their native state had never been reported before. Professor Lee said, “This study provides insights into the morphological and physical characteristics of in vivo PHA as well as the unique mechanisms of PHA granule formation that undergo the phase transition from soluble monomers into the insoluble polymer, followed by granule formation. Through this study, a deeper understanding of PHA granule formation within the bacterial cells is now possible, which has great significance in that a convergence study of biology and physics was achieved. This study will help develop various bioplastics production processes in the future.” This work was supported by the Technology Development Program to Solve Climate Changes on Systems Metabolic Engineering for Biorefineries (Grants NRF-2012M1A2A2026556 and NRF-2012M1A2A2026557) and the Bio & Medical Technology Development Program (Grant No. 2021M3A9I4022740) from the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) through the National Research Foundation (NRF) of Korea to S.Y.L. This work was also supported by the KAIST Cross-Generation Collaborative Laboratory project. -PublicationSo Young Choi, Jeonghun Oh, JaeHwang Jung, YongKeun Park, and Sang Yup Lee. Three-dimensional label-free visualization and quantification of polyhydroxyalkanoates in individualbacterial cell in its native state. PNAS(https://doi.org./10.1073/pnas.2103956118) -ProfileDistinguished Professor Sang Yup LeeMetabolic Engineering and Synthetic Biologyhttp://mbel.kaist.ac.kr/ Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering KAIST Endowed Chair Professor YongKeun ParkBiomedical Optics Laboratoryhttps://bmokaist.wordpress.com/ Department of PhysicsKAIST
Prof. Changho Suh Named the 2021 James L. Massey Awardee
Professor Changho Suh from the School of Electrical Engineering was named the recipient of the 2021 James L.Massey Award. The award recognizes outstanding achievement in research and teaching by young scholars in the information theory community. The award is named in honor of James L. Massey, who was an internationally acclaimed pioneer in digital communications and revered teacher and mentor to communications engineers. Professor Suh is a recipient of numerous awards, including the 2021 James L. Massey Research & Teaching Award for Young Scholars from the IEEE Information Theory Society, the 2019 AFOSR Grant, the 2019 Google Education Grant, the 2018 IEIE/IEEE Joint Award, the 2015 IEIE Haedong Young Engineer Award, the 2013 IEEE Communications Society Stephen O. Rice Prize, the 2011 David J. Sakrison Memorial Prize (the best dissertation award in UC Berkeley EECS), the 2009 IEEE ISIT Best Student Paper Award, the 2020 LINKGENESIS Best Teacher Award (the campus-wide Grand Prize in Teaching), and the four Departmental Teaching Awards (2013, 2019, 2020, 2021). Dr. Suh is an IEEE Information Theory Society Distinguished Lecturer, the General Chair of the Inaugural IEEE East Asian School of Information Theory, and a Member of the Young Korean Academy of Science and Technology. He is also an Associate Editor of Machine Learning for the IEEE Transactions on Information Theory, the Editor for the IEEE Information Theory Newsletter, a Column Editor for IEEE BITS the Information Theory Magazine, an Area Chair of NeurIPS 2021, and on the Senior Program Committee of IJCAI 2019–2021.
Prof. Junil Choi Receives the Neal Shepherd Memorial Award
Professor Junil Choi of the School of Electrical Engineering received the 2021 Neal Shepherd Memorial Award from the IEEE Vehicular Technology Society. The award recognizes the most outstanding paper relating to radio propagation published in major journals over the previous five years. Professor Cho, the recipient of the 2015 IEEE Signal Processing Society’s and the 2019 IEEE Communications Society’s Best Paper Award, was selected as the awardee for his paper titled “The Impact of Beamwidth on Temporal Channel Variation in Vehicular Channels and Its Implications” in IEEE Transaction on Vehicular Technology in 2017. In this paper, Professor Choi and his team derived the channel coherence time for a wireless channel as a function of the beamwidth, taking both Doppler effect and pointing error into consideration. The results showed that a nonzero optimal beamwidth exists that maximizes the channel coherence time. To reduce the impact of the overhead of doing realignment in every channel coherence time, the paper showed that the beams should be realigned every beam coherence time for the best performance. Professor Choi said, “It is quite an honor to receive this prestigious award following Professor Joonhyun Kang who won the IEEE VTS’s Jack Neubauer Memorial Award this year. It shows that our university’s pursuit of excellence in advanced research is being well recognized.”
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.
Hydrogel-Based Flexible Brain-Machine Interface
The interface is easy to insert into the body when dry, but behaves ‘stealthily’ inside the brain when wet Professor Seongjun Park’s research team and collaborators revealed a newly developed hydrogel-based flexible brain-machine interface. To study the structure of the brain or to identify and treat neurological diseases, it is crucial to develop an interface that can stimulate the brain and detect its signals in real time. However, existing neural interfaces are mechanically and chemically different from real brain tissue. This causes foreign body response and forms an insulating layer (glial scar) around the interface, which shortens its lifespan. To solve this problem, the research team developed a ‘brain-mimicking interface’ by inserting a custom-made multifunctional fiber bundle into the hydrogel body. The device is composed not only of an optical fiber that controls specific nerve cells with light in order to perform optogenetic procedures, but it also has an electrode bundle to read brain signals and a microfluidic channel to deliver drugs to the brain. The interface is easy to insert into the body when dry, as hydrogels become solid. But once in the body, the hydrogel will quickly absorb body fluids and resemble the properties of its surrounding tissues, thereby minimizing foreign body response. The research team applied the device on animal models, and showed that it was possible to detect neural signals for up to six months, which is far beyond what had been previously recorded. It was also possible to conduct long-term optogenetic and behavioral experiments on freely moving mice with a significant reduction in foreign body responses such as glial and immunological activation compared to existing devices. “This research is significant in that it was the first to utilize a hydrogel as part of a multifunctional neural interface probe, which increased its lifespan dramatically,” said Professor Park. “With our discovery, we look forward to advancements in research on neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease that require long-term observation.” The research was published in Nature Communications on June 8, 2021. (Title: Adaptive and multifunctional hydrogel hybrid probes for long-term sensing and modulation of neural activity) The study was conducted jointly with an MIT research team composed of Professor Polina Anikeeva, Professor Xuanhe Zhao, and Dr. Hyunwoo Yook. This research was supported by the National Research Foundation (NRF) grant for emerging research, Korea Medical Device Development Fund, KK-JRC Smart Project, KAIST Global Initiative Program, and Post-AI Project. -PublicationPark, S., Yuk, H., Zhao, R. et al. Adaptive and multifunctional hydrogel hybrid probes for long-term sensing and modulation of neural activity. Nat Commun 12, 3435 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-23802-9 -ProfileProfessor Seongjun ParkBio and Neural Interfaces LaboratoryDepartment of Bio and Brain EngineeringKAIST
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