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'Mini-Lungs' Reveal Early Stages of SARS-CoV-2 Infection
Researchers in Korea and the UK have successfully grown miniature models of critical lung structures called alveoli, and used them to study how the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 infects the lungs. To date, there have been more than 40 million cases of COVID-19 and almost 1.13 million deaths worldwide. The main target tissues of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, especially in patients that develop pneumonia, appear to be alveoli – tiny air sacs in the lungs that take up the oxygen we breathe and exchange it with carbon dioxide to exhale. To better understand how SARS-CoV-2 infects the lungs and causes disease, a team of Professor Young Seok Ju from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering at KAIST in collaboration with the Wellcome-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute at the University of Cambridge turned to organoids – ‘mini-organs’ grown in three dimensions to mimic the behaviour of tissue and organs. The team used tissue donated to tissue banks at the Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge University NHS Foundations Trust, UK, and Seoul National University Hospital to extract a type of lung cell known as human lung alveolar type 2 cells. By reprogramming these cells back to their earlier ‘stem cell’ stage, they were able to grow self-organizing alveolar-like 3D structures that mimic the behaviour of key lung tissue. “The research community now has a powerful new platform to study precisely how the virus infects the lungs, as well as explore possible treatments,” said Professor Ju, co-senior author of the research. Dr. Joo-Hyeon Lee, another co-senior author at the Wellcome-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute, said: “We still know surprisingly little about how SARS-CoV-2 infects the lungs and causes disease. Our approach has allowed us to grow 3D models of key lung tissue – in a sense, ‘mini-lungs’ – in the lab and study what happens when they become infected.” The team infected the organoids with a strain of SARS-CoV-2 taken from a patient in Korea who was diagnosed with COVID-19 on January 26 after traveling to Wuhan, China. Using a combination of fluorescence imaging and single cell genetic analysis, they were able to study how the cells responded to the virus. When the 3D models were exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus began to replicate rapidly, reaching full cellular infection just six hours after infection. Replication enables the virus to spread throughout the body, infecting other cells and tissue. Around the same time, the cells began to produce interferons – proteins that act as warning signals to neighbouring cells, telling them to activate their antiviral defences. After 48 hours, the interferons triggered the innate immune response – its first line of defence – and the cells started fighting back against infection. Sixty hours after infection, a subset of alveolar cells began to disintegrate, leading to cell death and damage to the lung tissue. Although the researchers observed changes to the lung cells within three days of infection, clinical symptoms of COVID-19 rarely occur so quickly and can sometimes take more than ten days after exposure to appear. The team say there are several possible reasons for this. It may take several days from the virus first infiltrating the upper respiratory tract to it reaching the alveoli. It may also require a substantial proportion of alveolar cells to be infected or for further interactions with immune cells resulting in inflammation before a patient displays symptoms. “Based on our model we can tackle many unanswered key questions, such as understanding genetic susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2, assessing relative infectivity of viral mutants, and revealing the damage processes of the virus in human alveolar cells,” said Professor Ju. “Most importantly, it provides the opportunity to develop and screen potential therapeutic agents against SARS-CoV-2 infection.” “We hope to use our technique to grow these 3D models from cells of patients who are particularly vulnerable to infection, such as the elderly or people with diseased lungs, and find out what happens to their tissue,” added Dr. Lee. The research was a collaboration involving scientists from KAIST, the University of Cambridge, Korea National Institute of Health, Institute for Basic Science (IBS), Seoul National University Hospital and Genome Insight in Korea. - Profile -Professor Young Seok Ju -Laboratory of Cancer Genomics -https://julab.kaist.ac.kr -the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering -KAIST
KAIST Showcases Healthcare Technologies at K-Hospital Fair 2020
KAIST Pavilion showcased its innovative medical and healthcare technologies and their advanced applications at the K-Hospital Fair 2020. Five KAIST research groups who teamed up for the Post-COVID-19 New Deal R&D Initiative Project participated in the fair held in Seoul last week. The K-Hospital Fair is a yearly event organized by the Korean Hospital Association to present the latest research and practical innovations to help the medical industry better serve the patients. This year, 120 healthcare organizations participated in the fair and operated 320 booths. At the fair, a research group led by Professor Il-Doo Kim from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering demonstrated the manufacturing process of orthogonal nanofibers used to develop their ‘recyclable nano-fiber filtered face mask’ introduced in March of this year. This mask has garnered immense international attention for maintaining its sturdy frame and filtering function even after being washed more than 20 times. Professor Kim is now extending his facilities for the mass production of this mask at his start-up company. While awaiting final approval from the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety to bring his product into the market, Professor Kim is developing other mask variations such as eco-friendly biodegradable masks and transparent masks to aid the hearing-impaired who rely on lip reading to communicate. The team working under Professor Wonho Choe from the Department of Nuclear and Quantum Engineering presented two low-temperature plasma sterilizers for medical use, co-developed with Plasmapp, a start-up company founded by a KAIST alumnus. Their sterilizers are the first ones that can sterilize medical devices by diffusing hydrogen peroxide vapor into the pouch. They rapidly sterilize medical instruments and materials in just seven minutes without leaving toxic residue, while reducing sterilization time and costs by 90%. Professor Hyung-Soon Park and his researchers from the Department of Mechanical Engineering introduced a smart protective suit ventilation system that features high cooling capacity and a slimmed-down design. For comfortable use, the suit is equipped with a technique that monitors its inner temperature and humidity and automatically controls its inner circulation accordingly. The group also presented a new system that helps a person in a contaminated suit undress without coming into contact with the contaminated outer part of the suit. Professor Jong Chul Ye's group from the Department of Bio and Brain Engineering demonstrated AI software that can quickly diagnose an infectious disease based on chest X-ray imaging. The technique compares the differences in the severity of pneumonia in individual patients to distinguish whether their conditions fall under viral pneumonia including COVID-19, bacterial pneumonia, tuberculosis, other diseases, or normal conditions. The AI software visualizes the basis of its reasoning for each of the suspected diseases and provides them as information that can be utilized by medical personnel. Finally, researchers of Professor Ki-Hun Jeong’s team from the Department of Bio and Brain Engineering demonstrated their ultra-high-speed sub-miniature molecular diagnostic system for the on-site diagnosis of diseases. The existing Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) diagnostic usually takes from 30 minutes to an hour to provide results, but their new technique using an LED light source can present results within just three minutes and it is expected to be used actively for on-site diagnosis. Professor Choongsik Bae, the Director of the Post-COVID-19 New Deal R&D Initiative Project, said, “KAIST will build a healthy relationship amongst researchers, enterprises, and hospitals to contribute to the end of COVID-19 and build a new paradigm of Korean disease prevention and control.” KAIST launched the Post-COVID-19 New Deal R&D Initiative in July with the support of the Ministry of Science and ICT of Korea. This unit was created to overcome the pandemic crisis by using science and technology, and to contribute to economic development by creating a new antiviral drug industry. The unit is comprised of 464 KAIST members including professors, researchers, and students as well as 503 professionals from enterprises, hospitals, and research centers. (END)
Experts to Help Asia Navigate the Post-COVID-19 and 4IR Eras
Risk Quotient 2020, an international conference co-hosted by KAIST and the National University of Singapore (NUS), will bring together world-leading experts from academia and industry to help Asia navigate the post-COVID-19 and Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) eras. The online conference will be held on October 29 from 10 a.m. Korean time under the theme “COVID-19 Pandemic and A Brave New World”. It will be streamed live on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/c/KAISTofficial and https://www.youtube.com/user/NUScast. The Korea Policy Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (KPC4IR) at KAIST organized this conference in collaboration with the Lloyd's Register Foundation Institute for the Public Understanding of Risk (IPUR) at NUS. During the conference, global leaders will examine the socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on areas including digital innovation, education, the workforce, and the economy. They will then highlight digital and 4IR technologies that could be utilized to effectively mitigate the risks and challenges associated with the pandemic, while harnessing the opportunities that these socioeconomic effects may present. Their discussions will mainly focus on the Asian region. In his opening remarks, KAIST President Sung-Chul Shin will express his appreciation for the Asian populations’ greater trust in and compliance with their governments, which have given the continent a leg up against the coronavirus. He will then emphasize that by working together through the exchange of ideas and global collaboration, we will be able to shape ‘a brave new world’ to better humanity. Welcoming remarks by Prof. Sang Yup Lee (Dean, KAIST Institutes) and Prof. Tze Yun Leong (Director, AI Technology at AI Singapore) will follow. For the keynote speech, Prof. Lan Xue (Dean, Schwarzman College, Tsinghua University) will share China’s response to COVID-19 and lessons for crisis management. Prof. Danny Quah (Dean, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS) will present possible ways to overcome these difficult times. Dr. Kak-Soo Shin (Senior Advisor, Shin & Kim LLC, Former Ambassador to the State of Israel and Japan, and Former First and Second Vice Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea) will stress the importance of the international community’s solidarity to ensure peace, prosperity, and safety in this new era. Panel Session I will address the impact of COVID-19 on digital innovation. Dr. Carol Soon (Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Policy Studies, NUS) will present her interpretation of recent technological developments as both opportunities for our society as a whole and challenges for vulnerable groups such as low-income families. Dr. Christopher SungWook Chang (Managing Director, Kakao Mobility) will show how changes in mobility usage patterns can be captured by Kakao Mobility’s big data analysis. He will illustrate how the data can be used to interpret citizen’s behaviors and how risks can be transformed into opportunities by utilizing technology. Mr. Steve Ledzian’s (Vice President, Chief Technology Officer, FireEye) talk will discuss the dangers caused by threat actors and other cyber risk implications of COVID-19. Dr. June Sung Park (Chairman, Korea Software Technology Association (KOSTA)) will share how COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformations across all industries and why software education should be reformed to improve Korea’s competitiveness. Panel Session II will examine the impact on education and the workforce. Dr. Sang-Jin Ban (President, Korean Educational Development Institute (KEDI)) will explain Korea’s educational response to the pandemic and the concept of “blended learning” as a new paradigm, and present both positive and negative impacts of online education on students’ learning experiences. Prof. Reuben Ng (Professor, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS) will present on graduate underemployment, which seems to have worsened during COVID-19. Dr. Michael Fung’s presentation (Deputy Chief Executive (Industry), SkillsFuture SG) will introduce the promotion of lifelong learning in Singapore through a new national initiative known as the ‘SkillsFuture Movement’. This movement serves as an example of a national response to disruptions in the job market and the pace of skills obsolescence triggered by AI and COVID-19. Panel Session III will touch on technology leadership and Asia’s digital economy and society. Prof. Naubahar Sharif (Professor, Division of Social Science and Division of Public Policy, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST)) will share his views on the potential of China in taking over global technological leadership based on its massive domestic market, its government support, and the globalization process. Prof. Yee Kuang Heng (Professor, Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Tokyo) will illustrate how different legal and political needs in China and Japan have shaped the ways technologies have been deployed in responding to COVID-19. Dr. Hayun Kang (Head, International Cooperation Research Division, Korea Information Society Development Institute (KISDI)) will explain Korea’s relative success containing the pandemic compared to other countries, and how policy leaders and institutions that embrace digital technologies in the pursuit of public welfare objectives can produce positive outcomes while minimizing the side effects. Prof. Kyung Ryul Park (Graduate School of Science and Technology Policy, KAIST) will be hosting the entire conference, whereas Prof. Alice Hae Yun Oh (Director, MARS Artificial Intelligence Research Center, KAIST), Prof. Wonjoon Kim (Dean, Graduate School of Innovation and Technology Management, College of Business, KAIST), Prof. Youngsun Kwon (Dean, KAIST Academy), and Prof. Taejun Lee (Korea Development Institute (KDI) School of Public Policy and Management) are to chair discussions with the keynote speakers and panelists. Closing remarks will be delivered by Prof. Chan Ghee Koh (Director, NUS IPUR), Prof. So Young Kim (Director, KAIST KPC4IR), and Prof. Joungho Kim (Director, KAIST Global Strategy Institute (GSI)). “This conference is expected to serve as a springboard to help Asian countries recover from global crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic through active cooperation and joint engagement among scholars, experts, and policymakers,” according to Director So Young Kim. (END)
Biomarker Predicts Who Will Have Severe COVID-19
- Airway cell analyses showing an activated immune axis could pinpoint the COVID-19 patients who will most benefit from targeted therapies.- KAIST researchers have identified key markers that could help pinpoint patients who are bound to get a severe reaction to COVID-19 infection. This would help doctors provide the right treatments at the right time, potentially saving lives. The findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology on August 28. People’s immune systems react differently to infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, ranging from mild to severe, life-threatening responses. To understand the differences in responses, Professor Heung Kyu Lee and PhD candidate Jang Hyun Park from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering at KAIST analysed ribonucleic acid (RNA) sequencing data extracted from individual airway cells of healthy controls and of mildly and severely ill patients with COVID-19. The data was available in a public database previously published by a group of Chinese researchers. “Our analyses identified an association between immune cells called neutrophils and special cell receptors that bind to the steroid hormone glucocorticoid,” Professor Lee explained. “This finding could be used as a biomarker for predicting disease severity in patients and thus selecting a targeted therapy that can help treat them at an appropriate time,” he added. Severe illness in COVID-19 is associated with an exaggerated immune response that leads to excessive airway-damaging inflammation. This condition, known as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), accounts for 70% of deaths in fatal COVID-19 infections. Scientists already know that this excessive inflammation involves heightened neutrophil recruitment to the airways, but the detailed mechanisms of this reaction are still unclear. Lee and Park’s analyses found that a group of immune cells called myeloid cells produced excess amounts of neutrophil-recruiting chemicals in severely ill patients, including a cytokine called tumour necrosis factor (TNF) and a chemokine called CXCL8. Further RNA analyses of neutrophils in severely ill patients showed they were less able to recruit very important T cells needed for attacking the virus. At the same time, the neutrophils produced too many extracellular molecules that normally trap pathogens, but damage airway cells when produced in excess. The researchers additionally found that the airway cells in severely ill patients were not expressing enough glucocorticoid receptors. This was correlated with increased CXCL8 expression and neutrophil recruitment. Glucocorticoids, like the well-known drug dexamethasone, are anti-inflammatory agents that could play a role in treating COVID-19. However, using them in early or mild forms of the infection could suppress the necessary immune reactions to combat the virus. But if airway damage has already happened in more severe cases, glucocorticoid treatment would be ineffective. Knowing who to give this treatment to and when is really important. COVID-19 patients showing reduced glucocorticoid receptor expression, increased CXCL8 expression, and excess neutrophil recruitment to the airways could benefit from treatment with glucocorticoids to prevent airway damage. Further research is needed, however, to confirm the relationship between glucocorticoids and neutrophil inflammation at the protein level. “Our study could serve as a springboard towards more accurate and reliable COVID-19 treatments,” Professor Lee said. This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea, and Mobile Clinic Module Project funded by KAIST. Figure. Low glucocorticoid receptor (GR) expression led to excessive inflammation and lung damage by neutrophils through enhancing the expression of CXCL8 and other cytokines. Image credit: Professor Heung Kyu Lee, KAIST. Created with Biorender.com. Image usage restrictions: News organizations may use or redistribute these figures and image, with proper attribution, as part of news coverage of this paper only. Publication: Jang Hyun Park, and Heung Kyu Lee. (2020). Re-analysis of Single Cell Transcriptome Reveals That the NR3C1-CXCL8-Neutrophil Axis Determines the Severity of COVID-19. Frontiers in Immunology, Available online at https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2020.02145 Profile: Heung Kyu Lee Associate Professor firstname.lastname@example.org https://www.heungkyulee.kaist.ac.kr/ Laboratory of Host Defenses Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering (GSMSE) The Center for Epidemic Preparedness at KAIST Institute http://kaist.ac.kr Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) Daejeon, Republic of Korea Profile: Jang Hyun Park PhD Candidate email@example.com GSMSE, KAIST (END)
Virtual Commencement Ceremony Honors the Class of 2020
The KAIST community gathered online to celebrate the 2020 graduating class. The blended ceremony conferred their hard-earned degrees on August 28. The belated celebration, which was postponed from February 21 due to the COVID-19 outbreak, honored the 2846 graduates with live streaming on YouTube beginning at 2:00 pm. The graduates include 721 PhDs and 1399 master’s degree holders. The government raised its social distancing guidelines to level two out of three on August 23 as the second wave of the virus hit the nation. Level two guidelines prohibit the gathering of more than 50 persons indoors or 100 persons outdoors. For the virtual ceremony, the Office of Student Affairs and Policy announced a list of 67 graduates who signed up to participate in the graduation ceremony. Graduates were divided into three groups to attend at three different places and watch the ceremony via Zoom. No family and friends of the graduates were allowed to participate at the campus. This year’s valedictorian, Kon-Yong Lee from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, received the Award of Minister of Science and Technology. Salutorian Hee-Kwang Roh from the Department of Chemistry received the Award of the KAIST Board of Trustees, while the recipient of the KAIST Presidential Award was Hong Jae-Min from the School of Computing. President Sung-Chul Shin, Chairman of the Board of Trustees Woo-Sik Kim, former Minister of Science and Technology and former Provost at KAIST Dr. KunMo Chung, and a very limited number of faculty and staff members officiated the commencement ceremony from the KAIST auditorium. President Shin in his commencement speech applauded the graduates’ hard work and dedication and delivered a very special congratulatory message to them. He encouraged the new graduates to be courageous enough to deal with these new challenges as well as future uncertainties, during the greatest transformation brought about by COVID-19. “Instead of following behind others as a fast follower, we should take the initiative and walk down new paths as a first mover.” He also stressed, “We can transform this crisis into an opportunity by practicing the C3 values KAIST pursues: Challenging, Creating, and Caring.” As new alumni of Korea’s top science and technology university, he said, “Our graduates should focus on creating the world’s best, first, or only one in their research or their work.” However, he also pointed out the importance of a caring mind for others when working together. At the ceremony, KAIST conferred an honorary doctorate degree to Dr. Younghoon David Kim, CEO and Chairman of Daesung Group, in recognition of his lifetime dedication to making innovations in the energy industry. Daesung Group is a leading energy company in Korea which manufactures and supplies natural gas for industries and home users. Dr. Kim is committed to making efficient energy sources by advancing cutting-energy sciences and disruptive technologies. He has served as chairman of the World Energy Council since 2016. In his acceptance speech, Kim stressed the Grand Energy Transition as a new driving force in the future energy industry for maximizing energy efficiency. “Since energy is the most basic foundation for all industries, improvements in energy efficiency translate into benefits for all related industries in terms of its efficiency and productivity.” “The Grand Energy Transition is progressing widely and rapidly across the entire value chain of energy production, distribution, and consumption with decarbonization, decentralization, and digitalization serving as its driving force.” He went on, “We should regard energy efficiency not as the fifth fuel but the first primary fuel.” (END)
Deep Learning-Based Cough Recognition Model Helps Detect the Location of Coughing Sounds in Real Time
The Center for Noise and Vibration Control at KAIST announced that their coughing detection camera recognizes where coughing happens, visualizing the locations. The resulting cough recognition camera can track and record information about the person who coughed, their location, and the number of coughs on a real-time basis. Professor Yong-Hwa Park from the Department of Mechanical Engineering developed a deep learning-based cough recognition model to classify a coughing sound in real time. The coughing event classification model is combined with a sound camera that visualizes their locations in public places. The research team said they achieved a best test accuracy of 87.4 %. Professor Park said that it will be useful medical equipment during epidemics in public places such as schools, offices, and restaurants, and to constantly monitor patients’ conditions in a hospital room. Fever and coughing are the most relevant respiratory disease symptoms, among which fever can be recognized remotely using thermal cameras. This new technology is expected to be very helpful for detecting epidemic transmissions in a non-contact way. The cough event classification model is combined with a sound camera that visualizes the cough event and indicates the location in the video image. To develop a cough recognition model, a supervised learning was conducted with a convolutional neural network (CNN). The model performs binary classification with an input of a one-second sound profile feature, generating output to be either a cough event or something else. In the training and evaluation, various datasets were collected from Audioset, DEMAND, ETSI, and TIMIT. Coughing and others sounds were extracted from Audioset, and the rest of the datasets were used as background noises for data augmentation so that this model could be generalized for various background noises in public places. The dataset was augmented by mixing coughing sounds and other sounds from Audioset and background noises with the ratio of 0.15 to 0.75, then the overall volume was adjusted to 0.25 to 1.0 times to generalize the model for various distances. The training and evaluation datasets were constructed by dividing the augmented dataset by 9:1, and the test dataset was recorded separately in a real office environment. In the optimization procedure of the network model, training was conducted with various combinations of five acoustic features including spectrogram, Mel-scaled spectrogram and Mel-frequency cepstrum coefficients with seven optimizers. The performance of each combination was compared with the test dataset. The best test accuracy of 87.4% was achieved with Mel-scaled Spectrogram as the acoustic feature and ASGD as the optimizer. The trained cough recognition model was combined with a sound camera. The sound camera is composed of a microphone array and a camera module. A beamforming process is applied to a collected set of acoustic data to find out the direction of incoming sound source. The integrated cough recognition model determines whether the sound is cough or not. If it is, the location of cough is visualized as a contour image with a ‘cough’ label at the location of the coughing sound source in a video image. A pilot test of the cough recognition camera in an office environment shows that it successfully distinguishes cough events and other events even in a noisy environment. In addition, it can track the location of the person who coughed and count the number of coughs in real time. The performance will be improved further with additional training data obtained from other real environments such as hospitals and classrooms. Professor Park said, “In a pandemic situation like we are experiencing with COVID-19, a cough detection camera can contribute to the prevention and early detection of epidemics in public places. Especially when applied to a hospital room, the patient's condition can be tracked 24 hours a day and support more accurate diagnoses while reducing the effort of the medical staff." This study was conducted in collaboration with SM Instruments Inc. Profile: Yong-Hwa Park, Ph.D. Associate Professor firstname.lastname@example.org http://human.kaist.ac.kr/ Human-Machine Interaction Laboratory (HuMaN Lab.) Department of Mechanical Engineering (ME) Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) https://www.kaist.ac.kr/en/ Daejeon 34141, Korea Profile: Gyeong Tae Lee PhD Candidate email@example.com HuMaN Lab., ME, KAIST Profile: Seong Hu Kim PhD Candidate firstname.lastname@example.org HuMaN Lab., ME, KAIST Profile: Hyeonuk Nam PhD Candidate email@example.com HuMaN Lab., ME, KAIST Profile: Young-Key Kim CEO firstname.lastname@example.org http://en.smins.co.kr/ SM Instruments Inc. Daejeon 34109, Korea (END)
Study Finds Interferon Triggers Inflammation in Severe COVID-19
KAIST medical scientists and their colleagues confirmed that the type I interferon response plays a pivotal role in exacerbating inflammation in severe COVID-19 cases. Severe COVID-19 has been shown to be caused by a hyper-inflammatory response. Particularly, inflammatory cytokines secreted by classical monocytes and macrophages are believed to play a crucial role in the severe progression of COVID-19. A new single-cell RNA sequencing analysis of more than 59,000 cells from three different patient cohorts provided a detailed look at patients’ immune responses in severe cases of COVID-19. The results suggest that patients with severe cases of COVID-19 experience increased regulation of the type I interferon (IFN-I) inflammation-triggering pathway, a signature that the researchers also observed in patients hospitalized with severe cases of influenza. Their findings suggest that anti-inflammatory treatment strategies for COVID-19 should also be aimed toward the IFN-I signaling pathway, in addition to targeting inflammatory molecules such as TNF, IL-1, and IL-6, which have been associated with COVID-19. The research team under Professor Eui-Cheol Shin from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering sequenced the RNA from a total of 59,572 blood cells obtained from four healthy donors, eight patients with mild or severe COVID-19, and five patients with severe influenza. By comparison, patients with severe cases of influenza showed increased expression of various IFN-stimulated genes, but did not experience TNF/IL-1 responses as seen in COVID-19 patients. Unlike the flu cohort, patients in the severe COVID-19 cohort exhibited the IFN-I signature concurrently with TNF/IL-1-driven inflammation – a combination also not seen in patients with milder cases of COVID-19. Their result, along with past mouse studies that highlight how the timing of IFN-I expression is critical to determining the outcome of SARS, support targeting IFN-I as a potential treatment strategy for severe COVID-19. Professor Shin said, “This research provides insights for designing therapeutic options for COVID-19 by investigating very closely how the immune cells of COVDI-19 patients develop. We will continue to conduct research on novel therapeutic immune mechanisms and target therapeutic anti-inflammatory medication to improve the survival of severe COVID-19 patients.” This study, conducted in collaboration with Severance Hospital at Yonsei University, Asan Medical Center, and Chungbuk National University, was featured in Science Immunology on July 10. This work was funded by Samsung Science and Technology Foundation and SUHF Fellowship. -PublicationScience Immunology 10 Jul 2020:Vol. 5, Issue 49, eabd1554DOI: 10.1126/sciimmunol.abd1554 -ProfileProfessorEui-Cheol ShinGraduate School of Medical Science and EngineeringLaboratory of Immunology & Infectious Diseases (http://liid.kaist.ac.kr/)email@example.comKAIST
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)
Education, a Silver Lining in the Dark COVID-19 Cloud
If there is a silver lining behind the COVID-19 pandemic clouds engulfing the world in darkness, it would be ‘education’. The disruption caused by the pandemic has reminded us of the skills that students need in this unpredictable world and raised public awareness of guaranteeing continuous, fair, and quality learning opportunities. Educational innovation can become a positive and powerful catalyst to transform the world for a better future in the post-COVID era. According to the speakers at the virtual forum co-hosted by the Global Strategy Institute (GSI) and Korea Policy Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (KPC4IR) at KAIST on June 24, the recent transition to remote education amplifies the existing socio-economic disparities between the haves and the have-nots, and narrowing the digital divide is the most urgent challenge that should be addressed in this ever-evolving technology-dominating era. They also called for students to be resilient despite the numerous uncertainties ahead of them and prepare new skill sets to better adjust to new environments. KAIST launched the GSI as its think tank in February of this year. The GSI aims to identify global issues proactively and help make breakthroughs well aligned with solid science and technology-based policies. The second forum of the KAIST GSI, following its inaugural forum in April, was held under the theme “Envisioning the Future of Education for a Non-Contact Society in the Post-Coronavirus Era”. In his opening remarks, KAIST President Sung-Chul Shin stressed that “distance teaching and learning will eventually become integral components of our future education system”. He then called for close collaboration between the public and private sectors to better shape the future of digital education. President Shin said that global cooperation is also needed to continue offering inclusive, quality education that can equally benefit every student around the world. “We should never let a crisis go to waste, and the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception,” he added. CEO of Minerva Schools Ben Nelson described the current coronavirus crisis as “an earthquake happening deep down on the ocean floor – we don’t feel it, but it can cause a devastating tsunami.” He continued, “Online learning can totally change the current education system forever.” Saying that blended education, which combines online and offline classes, will be the new norm in the post-coronavirus era, Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda anticipates that institutions will have to offer more and more online courses and credentials, and should at the same time prepare to drive down the cost of education as students expect to pay much less in tuition and fees for online learning options. “With the economy slumping and unemployment soaring, job-relevant education will also be a must,” Maggioncalda said. National University of Singapore President Tan Eng Chye further pointed out that future education systems should prepare students to be creative lifelong learners. President Tan encouraged students to be able to integrate knowledge and technical skills from multiple disciplines for complex problem solving, and be adaptable and resilient with bigger appetites for risks and a higher tolerance for failures. He also mentioned digital competency, empathy, and social responsibility as virtues that students in the post-coronavirus era should possess. Rebecca Winthrop, Co-Director of the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution, raised concerns over the ever-growing digital disparities caused by the recent shift to online teaching and learning, claiming that insufficient infrastructures for low-income families in developing nations are already causing added educational disparities and provoking the inequity issue around the world. “New approaches to leapfrog inequality and provide quality education equally through faster and more effective means should be studied,” she said. In response to this, Vice President of Microsoft Anthony Salcito introduced the Microsoft Education Transformation Framework, which provides practical advice to develop strategies for digital education transformation with a holistic, long-term view implemented in discrete phases that the global community can begin today. The Framework reportedly shows how emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, support new approaches to building efficient and effective physical and digital infrastructure, modernizing teaching and learning, empowering research, and managing student success. The GSI will host two more forums in September and November. (END)
KAIST Forum Envisions Education in the Post-Covid Era
Global leaders including the CEOs of Minerva and Coursera to join the KAIST online forum to discuss how to facilitate inclusive educational environment amidst the ever-growing digital disparities An international forum hosted by the KAIST Global Strategy Institute will examine how the disruptions caused by the global pandemic will impact the future of education. Global leaders will reflect on ways to better facilitate inclusive educational environments and mitigate the digital divide, especially in an era where non-contact environments are so critical. The online forum to be held on June 24 from 09:00 am KST will livestream on YouTube and KTV. This is the second forum hosted by the GSI following its inaugural forum in April. Minerva School’s CEO Ben Nelson and Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda will be among the 15 speakers who will share their insights on the new transformations in the education sector. The digital transformation of higher education will be the key topic every speaker will highlight to predict the future education in the post-Covid era. According to UNESCO and UNICEF, 1.6 billion students from 192 countries, which account for 91 percent of the student population in the world, have experienced educational disruptions in the past four months. Approximately 29 percent of the youth worldwide, around 346 million individuals, are not online. KAIST President Sung-Chul Shin’s opening remarks will stress that technological breakthroughs should be used to benefit us all and the private and public sectors should collaborate to facilitate an inclusive educational environment. Ben Nelson believes that global universities are at the point of inflection for making tough choices to reform higher education. He will introduce what will affect the decision-making procedure for investing in the digital transformation and the best recipe for building a successful remote learning environment. Dr. Paul Kim, CTO and Assistant Dean of Stanford Graduate School of Education, will analyze the ramifications brought about by Covid-19 among both advanced countries and developing countries, and propose an optimal educational model for developing countries. Phil Baty, Chief Knowledge Officer at Times Higher Education, will present the key survey results the Times Higher Education made with approximately 200 university presidents on how higher education will adapt in the years to come. As for innovation in higher education, Vice President at Microsoft Anthony Salcito and Professor Tae Eog Lee from the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at KAIST will discuss the education innovation solutions they are currently working on and how their projects will continue to develop. National University of Singapore President Tan Eng Chye will also opine on how education could be more accessible. He will share what is exacerbating educational inequity and how to ensure an inclusive learning environment. The second session will cover how to cope with the digital inequity. Director General at the Ministry of Science and ICT Sang Wook Kang will explain the unavoidable online transition that is required to address the educational disruptions. He will also share his ideas on how this crisis can be leveraged to advance the educational environment. Meanwhile, Rebecca Winthrop, senior fellow and co-director for universal education at Brooking Institution, and Sooinn Lee, CEO and Creative Lead of Enuma, will present on how to reduce the educational disparity during the un-contact era. Director Joung-Ho Kim at the GSI, who is the organizer of the forum, said that KAIST has been the forerunner in the educational innovation. He hopes that this online forum will provide meaningful momentum to reshape the future of education by addressing the challenges and disruptions this pandemic has caused. URL Link to Live-Streaming Service: https://www.youtube.com/c/KAISTofficial
Universal Virus Detection Platform to Expedite Viral Diagnosis
Reactive polymer-based tester pre-screens dsRNAs of a wide range of viruses without their genome sequences The prompt, precise, and massive detection of a virus is the key to combat infectious diseases such as Covid-19. A new viral diagnostic strategy using reactive polymer-grafted, double-stranded RNAs will serve as a pre-screening tester for a wide range of viruses with enhanced sensitivity. Currently, the most widely using viral detection methodology is polymerase chain reaction (PCR) diagnosis, which amplifies and detects a piece of the viral genome. Prior knowledge of the relevant primer nucleic acids of the virus is quintessential for this test. The detection platform developed by KAIST researchers identifies viral activities without amplifying specific nucleic acid targets. The research team, co-led by Professor Sheng Li and Professor Yoosik Kim from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, constructed a universal virus detection platform by utilizing the distinct features of the PPFPA-grafted surface and double-stranded RNAs. The key principle of this platform is utilizing the distinct feature of reactive polymer-grafted surfaces, which serve as a versatile platform for the immobilization of functional molecules. These activated surfaces can be used in a wide range of applications including separation, delivery, and detection. As long double-stranded RNAs are common byproducts of viral transcription and replication, these PPFPA-grafted surfaces can detect the presence of different kinds of viruses without prior knowledge of their genomic sequences. “We employed the PPFPA-grafted silicon surface to develop a universal virus detection platform by immobilizing antibodies that recognize double-stranded RNAs,” said Professor Kim. To increase detection sensitivity, the research team devised two-step detection process analogues to sandwich enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay where the bound double-stranded RNAs are then visualized using fluorophore-tagged antibodies that also recognize the RNAs’ double-stranded secondary structure. By utilizing the developed platform, long double-stranded RNAs can be detected and visualized from an RNA mixture as well as from total cell lysates, which contain a mixture of various abundant contaminants such as DNAs and proteins. The research team successfully detected elevated levels of hepatitis C and A viruses with this tool. “This new technology allows us to take on virus detection from a new perspective. By targeting a common biomarker, viral double-stranded RNAs, we can develop a pre-screening platform that can quickly differentiate infected populations from non-infected ones,” said Professor Li. “This detection platform provides new perspectives for diagnosing infectious diseases. This will provide fast and accurate diagnoses for an infected population and prevent the influx of massive outbreaks,” said Professor Kim. This work is featured in Biomacromolecules. This work was supported by the Agency for Defense Development (Grant UD170039ID), the Ministry of Science and ICT (NRF-2017R1D1A1B03034660, NRF-2019R1C1C1006672), and the KAIST Future Systems Healthcare Project from the Ministry of Science and ICT (KAISTHEALTHCARE42). Profile:-Professor Yoosik KimDepartment of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineeringhttps://qcbio.kaist.ac.kr KAIST-Professor Sheng LiDepartment of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineeringhttps://bcpolymer.kaist.ac.kr KAIST Publication:Ku et al., 2020. Reactive Polymer Targeting dsRNA as Universal Virus Detection Platform with Enhanced Sensitivity. Biomacromolecules (https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.biomac.0c00379).
Antivirus Industry the Centerpiece of New Deal R&D Initiatives
- KAIST launches post-COVID-19 R&D initiatives for smart mobile medical systems. - KAIST will make the antivirus industry the centerpiece of what it is touting as the KAIST New Deal R&D initiative, which will drive new growth engines for preparing for the post-coronavirus era. According to the new initiative, KAIST will concentrate on creating antivirus technologies, infectious disease-related big data management, and non-contact services platforms as key future R&D projects. President Sung-Chul Shin launched the COVID-19 R&D Initiative task force last month, composed of more than 50 professors from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering, the Department of Biological Sciences, the College of Engineering, and the Department of Industrial Design. The task force came up with key research agendas that will promote smart mobile medical systems in the years ahead. “We will devote all of our R&D capacities to pursue a smart healthcare society,” said President Shin. “Our competitiveness in the fields of AI, ICT, materials, and bio-technology holds significant potential for building a healthy society powered by smart medical systems in Korea,” he added. The smart medical systems focus mainly on building an Epidemic Mitigating Mobile Module (EMMM). The EMMM will manage epidemics via the three phases of prevention, emergency response, and treatment, with the development of each phase’s technological modules. The EMMM will also build an AI big data platform to assist with clinical applications and epidemic management. Technologies applicable for the prevention phase include developing recyclable antivirus masks, plasma virus sterilizers, and smart breathable protective gowns. KAIST researchers will also focus on developing diagnosis modules that will identify epidemics more quickly and accurately. Most significantly, KAIST aims to develop technologies for anti-infection medical services such as the transformable negative pressure ambulance module and negative pressure room, which are specially developed for respiratory infections. The new R&D initiatives will center on virus therapies and treatments, specifically pushing forward vaccine and robotics studies. As caring robots and delivery robots will become common as main caregivers via noncontact services, research focusing on robotics will be significantly enhanced. Even before launching the new R&D initiatives, researchers have started to present new technologies to help address the pandemic. Professor Il-Doo Kim’s team in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering developed a washable nano-fiber filtered face mask that is preparing for commercialization. GPS tracking of infections has expanded comprehensively to detect both indoor and outdoor activities of infected patients. Professor Dong-Soo Han from the School of Computing developed Wi-Fi positioning software built into mobile phones that can trace both activities and is now preparing to roll it out. Virologist Ui-Cheol Shin from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering is carrying out research on a universal T-cell vaccine that can block the Betacoronaviruses. It is reported that that new epidemics such as SARS, MERS, and COVID-19 carry Betacoronaviruses. Research teams in the Graduate School of AI are conducting various research projects on building prediction models for outbreaks and spreads using big data. (END)
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