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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 email@example.com 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)
‘SoundWear’ a Heads-Up Sound Augmentation Gadget Helps Expand Children’s Play Experience
In this digital era, there has been growing concern that children spend most of their playtime watching TV, playing computer games, and staring at mobile phones with ‘head-down’ posture even outdoors. To counter such concerns, KAIST researchers designed a wearable bracelet using sound augmentation to leverage play benefits by employing digital technology. The research team also investigated how sound influences children’s play experiences according to their physical, social, and imaginative aspects. Playing is a large part of enjoyable and rewarding lives, especially for children. Previously, a large part of children’s playtime used to take place outdoors, and playing outdoors has long been praised for playing an essential role in providing opportunities to perform physical activity, improve social skills, and boost imaginative thinking. Motivated by these concerns, a KAIST research team led by Professor Woohun Lee and his researcher Jiwoo Hong from the Department of Industrial Design made use of sound augmentation, which is beneficial for motivating playful experiences by facilitating imagination and enhancing social awareness with its ambient and omnidirectional characteristics. Despite the beneficial characteristics of sound augmentation, only a few studies have explored sound interaction as a technology to augment outdoor play due to its abstractness when conveying information in an open space outdoors. There is also a lack of empirical evidence regarding its effect on children's play experiences. Professor Lee’s team designed and implemented an original bracelet-type wearable device called SoundWear. This device uses non-speech sound as a core digital feature for children to broaden their imaginations and improvise their outdoor games. Children equipped with SoundWear were allowed to explore multiple sounds (i.e., everyday and instrumental sounds) on SoundPalette, pick a desired sound, generate the sound with a swinging movement, and transfer the sound between multiple devices for their outdoor play. Both the quantitative and qualitative results of a user study indicated that augmenting playtime with everyday sounds triggered children’s imagination and resulted in distinct play behaviors, whereas instrumental sounds were transparently integrated with existing outdoor games while fully preserving play benefits in physical, social, and imaginative ways. The team also found that the gestural interaction of SoundWear and the free sound choice on SoundPalette helped children to gain a sense of achievement and ownership toward sound. This led children to be physically and socially active while playing. PhD candidate Hong said, “Our work can encourage the discussion on using digital technology that entails sound augmentation and gestural interactions for understanding and cultivating creative improvisations, social pretenses, and ownership of digital materials in digitally augmented play experiences.” Professor Lee also envisioned that the findings being helpful to parents and educators saying, “I hope the verified effect of digital technology on children’s play informs parents and educators to help them make more informed decisions and incorporate the playful and creative usage of new media, such as mobile phones and smart toys, for young children.” This research titled “SoundWear: Effect of Non-speech Sound Augmentation on the Outdoor Play Experience of Children” was presented at DIS 2020 (the ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems) taking place virtually in Eindhoven, Netherlands, from July 6 to 20. This work received an Honorable Mention Award for being in the top 5% of all the submissions to the conference. Publication: Hong, J., et al. (2020) ‘SoundWear: Effect of Non-speech Sound Augmentation on the Outdoor Play Experience of Children’. Proceedings of the 2020 ACM Designing Interactive Systems Conference (DIS'20), Pages 2201-2213. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1145/3357236.3395541 Profile: Professor Woohun Leewoohun.firstname.lastname@example.org://wonderlab.kaist.ac.kr Department of Industrial Design (ID) KAIST
KAIST Receives $57 Million Donation to Enhance Research
The largest amount since the opening of KAIST will fund ‘Singularity Professors’ KAIST Development Foundation Chairman Soo-Young Lee made a gift of real estate estimated at approximately $57 million on July 23. This is the largest donation KAIST has received since it was founded in 1971. The fund will establish the “Soo-Young Lee Science Education Foundation” and the proceeds of the foundation will go to the “Singularity Professors” as necessary resources to help make discoveries and design new approaches to accelerate breakthroughs. “KAIST should be the institute that will produce first Korean Nobel laureate in the field of science. I hope this fund will be utilized to enable Korea to stand out in this challenging time by accomplishing breakthroughs nobody has never imagined,” said Chairman Lee during the donation ceremony at KAIST’s campus in Daejeon. This is Chairman Lee’s third donation following the $6.7 million donation in 2012 and the $830,000 donation in 2016. Chairman Lee began her career as a journalist in 1963. In 1981, she started her own business by launching Kwangwon Ranch and became a successful businesswoman. In 1988, Chairman Lee established the real estate company Kwangwon Industries. After receiving an honorary doctorate from KAIST in 2012, she has served as the chairman of the KAIST Development Foundation from 2013. Chairman Lee expressed her intention to make another donation to KAIST in the near future during the news conference. “People matter most for advancing the world. KAIST has a very distinct mission to foster the brightest minds and will drive the nation to move forward. I have worked with KAIST for quite long time so that I have a strong belief that KAIST is the one that will not only make contributions to Korea but also to all humanity,” she explained. “For example, about one-fourth of the R&D manpower at Samsung Electronics is from KAIST. In 2019, Samsung Electronics recorded a revenue of approximately $206 billion which accounted for about 16% of national GDP. KAIST is the one that fosters global talents who are working at global company such as Samsung and many others.” KAIST President Sung-Chul Shin also expressed his deep respect for Chairman Lee’s decision, saying that the entire KAIST community will make every effort to keep up Chairman Lee’s noble idea encouraging KAIST to push forward and help realize KAIST’s role and mission. (END)
Singularity Professors Represent the Future of Research at KAIST
KAIST will launch a Singularity Professor track, which gives more freedom to researchers for pursuing their research goal. This more flexible and creative research environment institutionally supports researchers as they dive deeper into their research for a longer period of time without any strings attached. The track was established in an effort to ensure more competitive researchers who can lead the way for new advances in science and technology. This innovative research initiative is part of KAIST’s expansive effort to envision and position itself to build global research competitiveness in the wake of its 50th anniversary in 2021 and beyond. From this year, KAIST will select two to three research faculty for this special track with full-scale funding for 10 years. Singularity Professors will have their annual performance evaluations waived for 10 years. Instead, their research will be reviewed in their fifth year. The professors in this track will not participate in government-funded R&D projects and be fully funded by KAIST’s endowment. In addition to those newly hired into this track, Singularity Professorships are opens to existing faculty members. The selection criteria are very simple but highly demanding: one who can pivot an existing academic paradigm or invent a new discipline by presenting a novel scientific theory. KAIST recently hosted a briefing session for current faculty members and encouraged them to apply for the new track. As part of the selection criteria, the research topic’s innovativeness, feasibility, and appropriateness will be major factors for this track. Employment under this track will continue for up to 20 years. After receiving an evaluation of Very Satisfactory at the end of first ten-year contract, another ten years will be added. President Sung-Chul Shin, who has pushed for this system since he took office in 2017, said during the briefing session, “It takes quite a long time to bear fruit in academics, especially in science. I am very delighted that KAIST is paving the way for building a longer-term research environment which allows full and longer commitments for research that the faculty is excited to try. That’s the first step to sow the seeds for bearing fruit in academics, especially in science.” This is a paradigm shift to embrace transformation in a new era. The new institutional strategy supports the change from a fast follower to a first mover during these technologically turbulent times. Under its Global Singularity Research Projects initiative, KAIST already selected focus research topics in the most challenging as well as most creative fields of neuro-rehabilitation, new materials, and molecular optogenetics. “Especially in the post-COVID era, we have a very clear mission for the world. Our knowledge should translate into global value that can benefit those suffering from this pandemic, and mitigate the inequity coming from the digital discrepancies,” President Shin added. (END)
COVID-19 Update: Fall Semester to Continue Offering Classes Online
KAIST announced that the university would continue online classes through the fall semester. However, the university will conduct additional in-person classes for upper-level undergraduate lab classes and some graduate courses where on-site interaction was deemed to be highly necessary. Some 600-level graduate courses at the Daejeon campus and graduate courses at the Seoul campus will carry out both in-person and online classes. The fall semester will start from August 31. Provost and Executive Vice President Kwang Hyung Lee announced the fall semester plan in his letter to the entire student body on July 9. He said that the university decided to continue with online classes in consideration of the safety of KAIST community members and the current status of the COVID-19 spread. However, he said the new plan will help students choose class options between in-person and online classes. “Although the number of classes with two versions is limited, we believe this will help many students continue learning without the sustained face-to-face contact that is inherent in residential education,” Provost Lee said. In-person classes conducted in the fall semester will also be provided online for students who are not available for in-person classes. Students may choose the type of the classes they prefer according to their situation, among only the courses that will offer two versions. Professors will decide if they will conduct two versions of their classes. The Office of Academic Affairs is collecting the professors’ applications for conducting both versions until July 24. KAIST offered real-time online classes and pre-recorded KLMS (KAIST Learning Management System) classes during the spring semester with a very limited number of in-person lab classes for graduate courses and these two versions of online class will continue for fall semester. Provost Lee asked the students who will take the in-person classes to strictly observe all precaution measures as the university will do its best to abide by the government guidelines against the Covid-19 in preparation for the fall semester. “We will continue to make appropriate and safe accommodations for them,” said Provost Lee. Those who need to reside in on-campus dormitories are required to be approved for moving. The applications will open after all the in-person class schedules are fixed next month. However, students who were approved for staying in the dormitories last semester can move in without additional approval procedures for the fall semester. (END)
X-ray Scattering Shines Light on Protein Folding
- Multiple forms of a non-functional, unfolded protein follow different pathways and timelines to reach its folded, functional state, a study reveals. - KAIST researchers have used an X-ray method to track how proteins fold, which could improve computer simulations of this process, with implications for understanding diseases and improving drug discovery. Their findings were reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) on June 30. When proteins are translated from their DNA codes, they quickly transform from a non-functional, unfolded state into their folded, functional state. Problems in folding can lead to diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. “Protein folding is one of the most important biological processes, as it forms the functioning 3D protein structure,” explained the physical chemist Hyotcherl Ihee of the Department of Chemistry at KAIST. Dr. Tae Wu Kim, the lead author of this research from Ihee’s group, added, “Understanding the mechanisms of protein folding is important, and could pave the way for disease study and drug development.” Ihee’s team developed an approach using an X-ray scattering technique to uncover how the protein cytochrome c folds from its initial unfolded state. This protein is composed of a chain of 104 amino acids with an iron-containing heme molecule. It is often used for protein folding studies. The researchers placed the protein in a solution and shined ultraviolet light on it. This process provides electrons to cytochrome c, reducing the iron within it from the ferric to the ferrous form, which initiates folding. As this was happening, the researchers beamed X-rays at very short intervals onto the sample. The X-rays scattered off all the atomic pairs in the sample and a detector continuously recorded the X-ray scattering patterns. The X-ray scattering patterns provided direct information regarding the 3D protein structure and the changes made in these patterns over time showed real-time motion of the protein during the folding process. The team found cytochrome c proteins initially exist in a wide variety of unfolded states. Once the folding process is triggered, they stop by a group of intermediates within 31.6 microseconds, and then those intermediates follow different pathways with different folding times to reach an energetically stable folded state. “We don’t know if this diversity in folding paths can be generalized to other proteins,” Ihee confessed. He continued, “However, we believe that our approach can be used to study other protein folding systems.” Ihee hopes this approach can improve the accuracy of models that simulate protein interactions by including information on their unstructured states. These simulations are important as they can help identify barriers to proper folding and predict a protein’s folded state given its amino acid sequence. Ultimately, the models could help clarify how some diseases develop and how drugs interact with various protein structures. Ihee’s group collaborated with Professor Young Min Rhee at the KAIST Department of Chemistry, and this work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) and the Institute for Basic Science (IBS). Figure. The scientists found that non-functional unfolded forms of the protein cytochrome c follow different pathways and timelines to reach a stable functional folded state. Publications: Kim, T. W., et al. (2020) ‘Protein folding from heterogeneous unfolded state revealed by time-resolved X-ray solution scattering’. PNAS. Volume 117. Issue 26. Page 14996-15005. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1913442117 Profile: Hyotcherl Ihee, Ph.D. Professor email@example.com http://time.kaist.ac.kr/ Ihee Laboratory Department of Chemistry KAIST https://www.kaist.ac.kr Daejeon 34141, Korea Profile: Young Min Rhee, Ph.D. Professor firstname.lastname@example.org http://singlet.kaist.ac.kr Rhee Research Group Department of Chemistry KAIST https://www.kaist.ac.kr Daejeon 34141, Korea (END)
Professor J.H. Lee Wins the Innovators in Science Award
Professor Jeong Ho Lee from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering won the Early-Career Scientist Award of the 2020 Innovators in Science Award. The New York Academy of Sciences administers the award in partnership with Takeda Pharmaceutical Company. The Innovators in Science Award grants two prizes of US $200,000 each year: one to an Early-Career Scientist and the other to a well-established Senior Scientist who have distinguished themselves for the creative thinking and impact of their rare disease research. The Senior Scientist Awardee is Dr. Adrian R. Krainer, at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory whose research focused on the mechanisms and control of RNA splicing. Prof. Lee is recognized for his research investigating genetic mutations in stem cells in the brain that result in rare developmental brain disorders. He was the first to identify the causes of intractable epilepsies and has identified the genes responsible for several developmental brain disorders, including focal cortical dysplasia, Joubert syndrome—a disorder characterized by an underdevelopment of the brainstem—and hemimegaloencephaly, which is the abnormal enlargement of one side of the brain. “It is a great honor to be recognized by a jury of such globally respected scientists whom I greatly admire,” said Prof. Lee. “More importantly, this award validates research into brain somatic mutations as an important area of exploration to help patients suffering from devastating and untreatable neurological disorders.” Prof. Lee also is the Director of the National Creative Research Initiative Center for Brain Somatic Mutations, and Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of SoVarGen, a biopharmaceutical company aiming to discover novel therapeutics and diagnosis for intractable central nervous system (CNS) diseases caused by low-level somatic mutation. The Innovators in Science Award is a limited submission competition in which research universities, academic institutions, government or non-profit institutions, or equivalent from around the globe with a well-established record of scientific excellence are invited to nominate their most promising Early-Career Scientists and their most outstanding Senior Scientists working in one of four selected therapeutic fields of neuroscience, gastroenterology, oncology, and regenerative medicine. The 2020 Winners will be honored at the virtual Innovators in Science Award Ceremony and Symposium in October 2020.
Quantum Classifiers with Tailored Quantum Kernel
Quantum information scientists have introduced a new method for machine learning classifications in quantum computing. The non-linear quantum kernels in a quantum binary classifier provide new insights for improving the accuracy of quantum machine learning, deemed able to outperform the current AI technology. The research team led by Professor June-Koo Kevin Rhee from the School of Electrical Engineering, proposed a quantum classifier based on quantum state fidelity by using a different initial state and replacing the Hadamard classification with a swap test. Unlike the conventional approach, this method is expected to significantly enhance the classification tasks when the training dataset is small, by exploiting the quantum advantage in finding non-linear features in a large feature space. Quantum machine learning holds promise as one of the imperative applications for quantum computing. In machine learning, one fundamental problem for a wide range of applications is classification, a task needed for recognizing patterns in labeled training data in order to assign a label to new, previously unseen data; and the kernel method has been an invaluable classification tool for identifying non-linear relationships in complex data. More recently, the kernel method has been introduced in quantum machine learning with great success. The ability of quantum computers to efficiently access and manipulate data in the quantum feature space can open opportunities for quantum techniques to enhance various existing machine learning methods. The idea of the classification algorithm with a nonlinear kernel is that given a quantum test state, the protocol calculates the weighted power sum of the fidelities of quantum data in quantum parallel via a swap-test circuit followed by two single-qubit measurements (see Figure 1). This requires only a small number of quantum data operations regardless of the size of data. The novelty of this approach lies in the fact that labeled training data can be densely packed into a quantum state and then compared to the test data. The KAIST team, in collaboration with researchers from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in South Africa and Data Cybernetics in Germany, has further advanced the rapidly evolving field of quantum machine learning by introducing quantum classifiers with tailored quantum kernels.This study was reported at npj Quantum Information in May. The input data is either represented by classical data via a quantum feature map or intrinsic quantum data, and the classification is based on the kernel function that measures the closeness of the test data to training data. Dr. Daniel Park at KAIST, one of the lead authors of this research, said that the quantum kernel can be tailored systematically to an arbitrary power sum, which makes it an excellent candidate for real-world applications. Professor Rhee said that quantum forking, a technique that was invented by the team previously, makes it possible to start the protocol from scratch, even when all the labeled training data and the test data are independently encoded in separate qubits. Professor Francesco Petruccione from UKZN explained, “The state fidelity of two quantum states includes the imaginary parts of the probability amplitudes, which enables use of the full quantum feature space.” To demonstrate the usefulness of the classification protocol, Carsten Blank from Data Cybernetics implemented the classifier and compared classical simulations using the five-qubit IBM quantum computer that is freely available to public users via cloud service. “This is a promising sign that the field is progressing,” Blank noted. Link to download the full-text paper: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41534-020-0272-6 -Profile Professor June-Koo Kevin Rhee email@example.com Professor, School of Electrical Engineering Director, ITRC of Quantum Computing for AIKAIST Daniel Kyungdeock Parkkpark10@kaist.ac.krResearch Assistant ProfessorSchool of Electrical EngineeringKAIST
Every Moment of Ultrafast Chemical Bonding Now Captured on Film
- The emerging moment of bond formation, two separate bonding steps, and subsequent vibrational motions were visualized. - < Emergence of molecular vibrations and the evolution to covalent bonds observed in the research. Video Credit: KEK IMSS > A team of South Korean researchers led by Professor Hyotcherl Ihee from the Department of Chemistry at KAIST reported the direct observation of the birthing moment of chemical bonds by tracking real-time atomic positions in the molecule. Professor Ihee, who also serves as Associate Director of the Center for Nanomaterials and Chemical Reactions at the Institute for Basic Science (IBS), conducted this study in collaboration with scientists at the Institute of Materials Structure Science of High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK IMSS, Japan), RIKEN (Japan), and Pohang Accelerator Laboratory (PAL, South Korea). This work was published in Nature on June 24. Targeted cancer drugs work by striking a tight bond between cancer cell and specific molecular targets that are involved in the growth and spread of cancer. Detailed images of such chemical bonding sites or pathways can provide key information necessary for maximizing the efficacy of oncogene treatments. However, atomic movements in a molecule have never been captured in the middle of the action, not even for an extremely simple molecule such as a triatomic molecule, made of only three atoms. Professor Ihee's group and their international collaborators finally succeeded in capturing the ongoing reaction process of the chemical bond formation in the gold trimer. "The femtosecond-resolution images revealed that such molecular events took place in two separate stages, not simultaneously as previously assumed," says Professor Ihee, the corresponding author of the study. "The atoms in the gold trimer complex atoms remain in motion even after the chemical bonding is complete. The distance between the atoms increased and decreased periodically, exhibiting the molecular vibration. These visualized molecular vibrations allowed us to name the characteristic motion of each observed vibrational mode." adds Professor Ihee. Atoms move extremely fast at a scale of femtosecond (fs) ― quadrillionths (or millionths of a billionth) of a second. Its movement is minute in the level of angstrom equal to one ten-billionth of a meter. They are especially elusive during the transition state where reaction intermediates are transitioning from reactants to products in a flash. The KAIST-IBS research team made this experimentally challenging task possible by using femtosecond x-ray liquidography (solution scattering). This experimental technique combines laser photolysis and x-ray scattering techniques. When a laser pulse strikes the sample, X-rays scatter and initiate the chemical bond formation reaction in the gold trimer complex. Femtosecond x-ray pulses obtained from a special light source called an x-ray free-electron laser (XFEL) were used to interrogate the bond-forming process. The experiments were performed at two XFEL facilities (4th generation linear accelerator) that are PAL-XFEL in South Korea and SACLA in Japan, and this study was conducted in collaboration with researchers from KEK IMSS, PAL, RIKEN, and the Japan Synchrotron Radiation Research Institute (JASRI). Scattered waves from each atom interfere with each other and thus their x-ray scattering images are characterized by specific travel directions. The KAIST-IBS research team traced real-time positions of the three gold atoms over time by analyzing x-ray scattering images, which are determined by a three-dimensional structure of a molecule. Structural changes in the molecule complex resulted in multiple characteristic scattering images over time. When a molecule is excited by a laser pulse, multiple vibrational quantum states are simultaneously excited. The superposition of several excited vibrational quantum states is called a wave packet. The researchers tracked the wave packet in three-dimensional nuclear coordinates and found that the first half round of chemical bonding was formed within 35 fs after photoexcitation. The second half of the reaction followed within 360 fs to complete the entire reaction dynamics. They also accurately illustrated molecular vibration motions in both temporal- and spatial-wise. This is quite a remarkable feat considering that such an ultrafast speed and a minute length of motion are quite challenging conditions for acquiring precise experimental data. In this study, the KAIST-IBS research team improved upon their 2015 study published by Nature. In the previous study in 2015, the speed of the x-ray camera (time resolution) was limited to 500 fs, and the molecular structure had already changed to be linear with two chemical bonds within 500 fs. In this study, the progress of the bond formation and bent-to-linear structural transformation could be observed in real time, thanks to the improvement time resolution down to 100 fs. Thereby, the asynchronous bond formation mechanism in which two chemical bonds are formed in 35 fs and 360 fs, respectively, and the bent-to-linear transformation completed in 335 fs were visualized. In short, in addition to observing the beginning and end of chemical reactions, they reported every moment of the intermediate, ongoing rearrangement of nuclear configurations with dramatically improved experimental and analytical methods. They will push this method of 'real-time tracking of atomic positions in a molecule and molecular vibration using femtosecond x-ray scattering' to reveal the mechanisms of organic and inorganic catalytic reactions and reactions involving proteins in the human body. "By directly tracking the molecular vibrations and real-time positions of all atoms in a molecule in the middle of reaction, we will be able to uncover mechanisms of various unknown organic and inorganic catalytic reactions and biochemical reactions," notes Dr. Jong Goo Kim, the lead author of the study. Publications: Kim, J. G., et al. (2020) ‘Mapping the emergence of molecular vibrations mediating bond formation’. Nature. Volume 582. Page 520-524. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2417-3 Profile: Hyotcherl Ihee, Ph.D. Professor firstname.lastname@example.org http://time.kaist.ac.kr/ Ihee Laboratory Department of Chemistry KAIST https://www.kaist.ac.kr Daejeon 34141, Korea (END)
Professor Alice Haeyun Oh to Join GPAI Expert Group
Professor Alice Haeyun Oh will participate in the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI), an international and multi-stakeholder initiative hosted by the OECD to guide the responsible development and use of AI. In collaboration with partners and international organizations, GPAI will bring together leading experts from industry, civil society, government, and academia. The Korean Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) officially announced that South Korea will take part in GPAI as one of the 15 founding members that include Canada, France, Japan, and the United States. Professor Oh has been appointed as a new member of the Responsible AI Committee, one of the four committees that GPAI established along with the Data Governance Committee, Future of Work Committee, and Innovation and Commercialization Committee. (END)
A New Strategy for Early Evaluations of CO2 Utilization Technologies
- A three-step evaluation procedure based on technology readiness levels helps find the most efficient technology before allocating R&D manpower and investments in CO2 utilization technologies. - Researchers presented a unified framework for early-stage evaluations of a variety of emerging CO2 utilization (CU) technologies. The three-step procedure allows a large number of potential CU technologies to be screened in order to identify the most promising ones, including those at low level of technical maturity, before allocating R&D manpower and investments. When evaluating new technology, various aspects of the new technology should be considered. Its feasibility, efficiency, economic competitiveness, and environmental friendliness are crucial, and its level of technical maturity is also an important component for further consideration. However, most technology evaluation procedures are data-driven, and the amount of reliable data in the early stages of technology development has been often limited. A research team led by Professor Jay Hyung Lee from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at KAIST proposed a new procedure for evaluating the early development stages of emerging CU technologies which are applicable at various technology readiness levels (TRLs). The procedure obtains performance indicators via primary data preparation, secondary data calculation, and performance indicator calculation, and the lead author of the study Dr. Kosan Roh and his colleagues presented a number of databases, methods, and computer-aided tools that can effectively facilitate the procedure. The research team demonstrated the procedure through four case studies involving novel CU technologies of different types and at various TRLs. They confirmed the electrochemical CO2 reduction for the production of ten chemicals, the co-electrolysis of CO2 and water for ethylene production, the direct oxidation of CO2 -based methanol for oxymethylene dimethyl production, and the microalgal biomass co-firing for power generation. The expected range of the performance indicators for low TRL technologies is broader than that for high TRL technologies, however, it is not the case for high TRL technologies as they are already at an optimized state. The research team believes that low TRL technologies will be significantly improved through future R&D until they are commercialized. “We plan to develop a systematic approach for such a comparison to help avoid misguided decision-making,” Professor Lee explained. Professor Lee added, “This procedure allows us to conduct a comprehensive and systematic evaluation of new technology. On top of that, it helps make efficient and reliable assessment possible.” The research team collaborated with Professor Alexander Mitsos, Professor André Bardow, and Professor Matthias Wessling at RWTH Aachen University in Germany. Their findings were reported in Green Chemistry on May 21. This work was supported by the Korea Carbon Capture and Sequestration R&D Center (KCRC). Publications: Roh, K., et al. (2020) ‘Early-stage evaluation of emerging CO2 utilization technologies at low technology readiness levels’ Green Chemistry. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1039/c9gc04440j Profile: Jay Hyung Lee, Ph.D. Professor email@example.com http://lense.kaist.ac.kr/ Laboratory for Energy System Engineering (LENSE) Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering KAIST https://www.kaist.ac.kr Daejeon 34141, Korea (END)
New Nanoparticle Drug Combination For Atherosclerosis
Physicochemical cargo-switching nanoparticles (CSNP) designed by KAIST can help significantly reduce cholesterol and macrophage foam cells in arteries, which are the two main triggers for atherosclerotic plaque and inflammation. The CSNP-based combination drug delivery therapy was proved to exert cholesterol-lowering, anti-inflammatory, and anti-proliferative functions of two common medications for treating and preventing atherosclerosis that are cyclodextrin and statin. Professor Ji-Ho Park and Dr. Heegon Kim from KAIST’s Department of Bio and Brain Engineering said their study has shown great potential for future applications with reduced side effects. Atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory vascular disease that is characterized by the accumulation of cholesterol and cholesterol-loaded macrophage foam cells in the intima. When this atherosclerotic plaque clogs and narrows the artery walls, they restrict blood flow and cause various cardiovascular conditions such as heart attacks and strokes. Heart attacks and strokes are the world’s first and fifth causes of death respectively. Oral statin administration has been used in clinics as a standard care for atherosclerosis, which is prescribed to lower blood cholesterol and inhibit its accumulation within the plaque. Although statins can effectively prevent the progression of plaque growth, they have only shown modest efficacy in eliminating the already-established plaque. Therefore, patients are required to take statin drugs for the rest of their lives and will always carry the risk of plaque ruptures that can trigger a blood clot. To address these issues, Professor Park and Dr. Kim exploited another antiatherogenic agent called cyclodextrin. In their paper published in the Journal of Controlled Release on March 10, Professor Park and Dr. Kim reported that the polymeric formulation of cyclodextrin with a diameter of approximately 10 nanometers(nm) can accumulate within the atherosclerotic plaque 14 times more and effectively reduce the plaque even at lower doses, compared to cyclodextrin in a non-polymer structure. Moreover, although cyclodextrin is known to have a cytotoxic effect on hair cells in the cochlea, which can lead to hearing loss, cyclodextrin polymers developed by Professor Park’s research group exhibited a varying biodistribution profile and did not have this side effect. In the follow-up study reported in ACS Nano on April 28, the researchers exploited both cyclodextrin and statin and form the cyclodextrin-statin self-assembly drug complex, based on previous findings that each drug can exert local anti-atherosclerosis effect within the plaque. The complex formation processes were optimized to obtain homogeneous and stable nanoparticles with a diameter of about 100 nm for systematic injection. The therapeutic synergy of cyclodextrin and statin could reportedly enhance plaque-targeted drug delivery and anti-inflammation. Cyclodextrin led to the regression of cholesterol in the established plaque, and the statins were shown to inhibit the proliferation of macrophage foam cells. The study suggested that combination therapy is required to resolve the complex inflammatory cholesterol-rich microenvironment within the plaque. Professor Park said, “While nanomedicine has been mainly developed for the treatment of cancers, our studies show that nanomedicine can also play a significant role in treating and preventing atherosclerosis, which causes various cardiovascular diseases that are the leading causes of death worldwide.” This work was supported by KAIST and the National Research Foundation (NRF) of Korea. Publications: 1. Heegon Kim, Junhee Han, and Ji-Ho Park. (2020) ‘Cyclodextrin polymer improves atherosclerosis therapy and reduces ototoxicity’ Journal of Controlled Release. Volume 319. Page 77-86. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jconrel.2019.12.021 2. Kim, H., et al. (2020) ‘Affinity-Driven Design of Cargo-Switching Nanoparticles to Leverage a Cholesterol-Rich Microenvironment for Atherosclerosis Therapy’ ACS Nano. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1021/acsnano.9b08216 Profile: Ji-Ho Park, Ph.D. Associate Professor firstname.lastname@example.org http://openwetware.org/wiki/Park_Lab Biomaterials Engineering Laboratory (BEL) Department of Bio and Brain Engineering (BIOENG) Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) https://www.kaist.ac.kr Daejeon 34141, Korea Profile: Heegon Kim, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Researcher email@example.com BEL, BIOENG, KAIST (END)
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