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A Deep-Learned E-Skin Decodes Complex Human Motion
A deep-learning powered single-strained electronic skin sensor can capture human motion from a distance. The single strain sensor placed on the wrist decodes complex five-finger motions in real time with a virtual 3D hand that mirrors the original motions. The deep neural network boosted by rapid situation learning (RSL) ensures stable operation regardless of its position on the surface of the skin. Conventional approaches require many sensor networks that cover the entire curvilinear surfaces of the target area. Unlike conventional wafer-based fabrication, this laser fabrication provides a new sensing paradigm for motion tracking. The research team, led by Professor Sungho Jo from the School of Computing, collaborated with Professor Seunghwan Ko from Seoul National University to design this new measuring system that extracts signals corresponding to multiple finger motions by generating cracks in metal nanoparticle films using laser technology. The sensor patch was then attached to a user’s wrist to detect the movement of the fingers. The concept of this research started from the idea that pinpointing a single area would be more efficient for identifying movements than affixing sensors to every joint and muscle. To make this targeting strategy work, it needs to accurately capture the signals from different areas at the point where they all converge, and then decoupling the information entangled in the converged signals. To maximize users’ usability and mobility, the research team used a single-channeled sensor to generate the signals corresponding to complex hand motions. The rapid situation learning (RSL) system collects data from arbitrary parts on the wrist and automatically trains the model in a real-time demonstration with a virtual 3D hand that mirrors the original motions. To enhance the sensitivity of the sensor, researchers used laser-induced nanoscale cracking. This sensory system can track the motion of the entire body with a small sensory network and facilitate the indirect remote measurement of human motions, which is applicable for wearable VR/AR systems. The research team said they focused on two tasks while developing the sensor. First, they analyzed the sensor signal patterns into a latent space encapsulating temporal sensor behavior and then they mapped the latent vectors to finger motion metric spaces. Professor Jo said, “Our system is expandable to other body parts. We already confirmed that the sensor is also capable of extracting gait motions from a pelvis. This technology is expected to provide a turning point in health-monitoring, motion tracking, and soft robotics.” This study was featured in Nature Communications. Publication: Kim, K. K., et al. (2020) A deep-learned skin sensor decoding the epicentral human motions. Nature Communications. 11. 2149. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-16040-y29 Link to download the full-text paper: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-16040-y.pdf Profile: Professor Sungho Jo firstname.lastname@example.org http://nmail.kaist.ac.kr Neuro-Machine Augmented Intelligence Lab School of Computing College of Engineering KAIST
Researchers Present a Microbial Strain Capable of Massive Succinic Acid Production
A research team led by Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee reported the production of a microbial strain capable of the massive production of succinic acid with the highest production efficiency to date. This strategy of integrating systems metabolic engineering with enzyme engineering will be useful for the production of industrially competitive bio-based chemicals. Their strategy was described in Nature Communications on April 23. The bio-based production of industrial chemicals from renewable non-food biomass has become increasingly important as a sustainable substitute for conventional petroleum-based production processes relying on fossil resources. Here, systems metabolic engineering, which is the key component for biorefinery technology, is utilized to effectively engineer the complex metabolic pathways of microorganisms to enable the efficient production of industrial chemicals. Succinic acid, a four-carbon dicarboxylic acid, is one of the most promising platform chemicals serving as a precursor for industrially important chemicals. Among microorganisms producing succinic acid, Mannheimia succiniciproducens has been proven to be one of the best strains for succinic acid production. The research team has developed a bio-based succinic acid production technology using the M. succiniciproducens strain isolated from the rumen of Korean cow for over 20 years and succeeded in developing a strain capable of producing succinic acid with the highest production efficiency. They carried out systems metabolic engineering to optimize the succinic acid production pathway of the M. succiniciproducens strain by determining the crystal structure of key enzymes important for succinic acid production and performing protein engineering to develop enzymes with better catalytic performance. As a result, 134 g per liter of succinic acid was produced from the fermentation of an engineered strain using glucose, glycerol, and carbon dioxide. They were able to achieve 21 g per liter per hour of succinic acid production, which is one of the key factors determining the economic feasibility of the overall production process. This is the world’s best succinic acid production efficiency reported to date. Previous production methods averaged 1~3 g per liter per hour. Distinguished professor Sang Yup Lee explained that his team’s work will significantly contribute to transforming the current petrochemical-based industry into an eco-friendly bio-based one. “Our research on the highly efficient bio-based production of succinic acid from renewable non-food resources and carbon dioxide has provided a basis for reducing our strong dependence on fossil resources, which is the main cause of the environmental crisis,” Professor Lee said. This work was supported by the Technology Development Program to Solve Climate Changes via Systems Metabolic Engineering for Biorefineries and the C1 Gas Refinery Program from the Ministry of Science and ICT through the National Research Foundation of Korea.
Blood-Based Multiplexed Diagnostic Sensor Helps to Accurately Detect Alzheimer’s Disease
A research team at KAIST reported clinically accurate multiplexed electrical biosensor for detecting Alzheimer’s disease by measuring its core biomarkers using densely aligned carbon nanotubes. Alzheimer’s disease is the most prevalent neurodegenerative disorder, affecting one in ten aged over 65 years. Early diagnosis can reduce the risk of suffering the disease by one-third, according to recent reports. However, its early diagnosis remains challenging due to the low accuracy but high cost of diagnosis. Research team led by Professors Chan Beum Park and Steve Park described an ultrasensitive detection of multiple Alzheimer's disease core biomarker in human plasma. The team have designed the sensor array by employing a densely aligned single-walled carbon nanotube thin films as a transducer. The representative biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease are beta-amyloid42, beta-amyloid40, total tau protein, phosphorylated tau protein and the concentrations of these biomarkers in human plasma are directly correlated with the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease. The research team developed a highly sensitive resistive biosensor based on densely aligned carbon nanotubes fabricated by Langmuir-Blodgett method with a low manufacturing cost. Aligned carbon nanotubes with high density minimizes the tube-to-tube junction resistance compared with randomly distributed carbon nanotubes, which leads to the improvement of sensor sensitivity. To be more specific, this resistive sensor with densely aligned carbon nanotubes exhibits a sensitivity over 100 times higher than that of conventional carbon nanotube-based biosensors. By measuring the concentrations of four Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers simultaneously Alzheimer patients can be discriminated from health controls with an average sensitivity of 90.0%, a selectivity of 90.0% and an average accuracy of 88.6%. This work, titled “Clinically accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease via multiplexed sensing of core biomarkers in human plasma”, were published in Nature Communications on January 8th 2020. The authors include PhD candidate Kayoung Kim and MS candidate Min-Ji Kim. Professor Steve Park said, “This study was conducted on patients who are already confirmed with Alzheimer’s Disease. For further use in practical setting, it is necessary to test the patients with mild cognitive impairment.” He also emphasized that, “It is essential to establish a nationwide infrastructure, such as mild cognitive impairment cohort study and a dementia cohort study. This would enable the establishment of world-wide research network, and will help various private and public institutions.” This research was supported by the Ministry of Science and ICT, Human Resource Bank of Chungnam National University Hospital and Chungbuk National University Hospital. < A schematic diagram of a high-density aligned carbon nanotube-based resistive sensor that distinguishes patients with Alzheimer’s Disease by measuring the concentration of four biomarkers in the blood. > Profile: Professor Steve Park email@example.com Department of Materials Science and Engineering http://steveparklab.kaist.ac.kr/ KAIST Profile: Professor Chan Beum Park parkcb at kaist.ac.kr Department of Materials Science and Engineering http://biomaterials.kaist.ac.kr/ KAIST
Scientists Discover the Mechanism of DNA High-Order Structure Formation
(Molecular structures of Abo1 in different energy states (left), Demonstration of an Abo1-assisted histone loading onto DNA by the DNA curtain assay. ) The genetic material of our cells—DNA—exists in a high-order structure called “chromatin”. Chromatin consists of DNA wrapped around histone proteins and efficiently packs DNA into a small volume. Moreover, using a spool and thread analogy, chromatin allows DNA to be locally wound or unwound, thus enabling genes to be enclosed or exposed. The misregulation of chromatin structures results in aberrant gene expression and can ultimately lead to developmental disorders or cancers. Despite the importance of DNA high-order structures, the complexity of the underlying machinery has circumvented molecular dissection. For the first time, molecular biologists have uncovered how one particular mechanism uses energy to ensure proper histone placement onto DNA to form chromatin. They published their results on Dec. 17 in Nature Communications. The study focused on proteins called histone chaperones. Histone chaperones are responsible for adding and removing specific histones at specific times during the DNA packaging process. The wrong histone at the wrong time and place could result in the misregulation of gene expression or aberrant DNA replication. Thus, histone chaperones are key players in the assembly and disassembly of chromatin. “In order to carefully control the assembly and disassembly of chromatin units, histone chaperones act as molecular escorts that prevent histone aggregation and undesired interactions,” said Professor Ji-Joon Song in the Department of Biological Sciences at KAIST. “We set out to understand how a unique histone chaperone uses chemical energy to assemble or disassemble chromatin.” Song and his team looked to Abo1, the only known histone chaperone that utilizes cellular energy (ATP). While Abo1 is found in yeast, it has an analogous partner in other organisms, including humans, called ATAD2. Both use ATP, which is produced through a cellular process where enzymes break down a molecule’s phosphate bond. ATP energy is typically used to power other cellular processes, but it is a rare partner for histone chaperones. “This was an interesting problem in the field because all other histone chaperones studied to date do not use ATP,” Song said. By imaging Abo1 with a single-molecule fluorescence imaging technique known as the DNA curtain assay, the researchers could examine the protein interactions at the single-molecule level. The technique allows scientists to arrange the DNA molecules and proteins on a single layer of a microfluidic chamber and examine the layer with fluorescence microscopy. The researchers found through real-time observation that Abo1 is ring-shaped and changes its structure to accommodate a specific histone and deposit it on DNA. Moreover, they found that the accommodating structural changes are powered by ADP. “We discovered a mechanism by which Abo1 accommodates histone substrates, ultimately allowing it to function as a unique energy-dependent histone chaperone,” Song said. “We also found that despite looking like a protein disassembly machine, Abo1 actually loads histone substrates onto DNA to facilitate chromatin assembly.” The researchers plan to continue exploring how energy-dependent histone chaperones bind and release histones, with the ultimate goal of developing therapeutics that can target cancer-causing misbehavior by Abo1’s analogous human counterpart, ATAD2. Profile -Professor Ji-Joon Song ( www.song-kaist.org) Associate Professor Department of Biological Sciences Email:firstname.lastname@example.org KI for the BioCentury (https://kis.kaist.ac.kr/index.php?mid=KIB_O) KAIST -Dr. Carol Cho Department of Biological Sciences The Research Center for Natural Sciences KI for the BioCentury (https://kis.kaist.ac.kr/index.php?mid=KIB_O) KAIST
Algorithm Identifies Optimal Pairs for Composing Metal-Organic Frameworks
The integration of metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) and other metal nanoparticles has increasingly led to the creation of new multifunctional materials. Many researchers have integrated MOFs with other classes of materials to produce new structures with synergetic properties. Despite there being over 70,000 collections of synthesized MOFs that can be used as building blocks, the precise nature of the interaction and the bonding at the interface between the two materials still remains unknown. The question is how to sort out the right matching pairs out of 70,000 MOFs. An algorithmic study published in Nature Communications by a KAIST research team presents a clue for finding the perfect pairs. The team, led by Professor Ji-Han Kim from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, developed a joint computational and experimental approach to rationally design MOF@MOFs, a composite of MOFs where an MOF is grown on a different MOF. Professor Kim’s team, in collaboration with UNIST, noted that the metal node of one MOF can coordinately bond with the linker of a different MOF and the precisely matched interface configurations at atomic and molecular levels can enhance the likelihood of synthesizing MOF@MOFs. They screened thousands of MOFs and identified optimal MOF pairs that can seamlessly connect to one another by taking advantage of the fact that the metal node of one MOF can form coordination bonds with the linkers of the second MOF. Six pairs predicted from the computational algorithm successfully grew into single crystals. This computational workflow can readily extend into other classes of materials and can lead to the rapid exploration of the composite MOFs arena for accelerated materials development. Even more, the workflow can enhance the likelihood of synthesizing MOF@MOFs in the form of large single crystals, and thereby demonstrated the utility of rationally designing the MOF@MOFs. This study is the first algorithm for predicting the synthesis of composite MOFs, to the best of their knowledge. Professor Kim said, “The number of predicted pairs can increase even more with the more general 2D lattice matching, and it is worth investigating in the future.” This study was supported by Samsung Research Funding & Incubation Center of Samsung Electronics. (Figure: An example of a rationally synthesized MOF@MOFs (cubic HKUST-1@MOF-5 ))
Deciphering Brain Somatic Mutations Associated with Alzheimer's Disease
Researchers have found a potential link between non-inherited somatic mutations in the brain and the progression of Alzheimer’s disease Researchers have identified somatic mutations in the brain that could contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Their findings were published in the journal Nature Communications last week. Decades worth of research has identified inherited mutations that lead to early-onset familial AD. Inherited mutations, however, are behind at most half the cases of late onset sporadic AD, in which there is no family history of the disease. But the genetic factors causing the other half of these sporadic cases have been unclear. Professor Jeong Ho Lee at the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering and colleagues analysed the DNA present in post-mortem hippocampal formations and in blood samples from people aged 70 to 96 with AD and age-matched controls. They specifically looked for non-inherited somatic mutations in their brains using high-depth whole exome sequencing. The team developed a bioinformatics pipeline that enabled them to detect low-level brain somatic single nucleotide variations (SNVs) – mutations that involve the substitution of a single nucleotide with another nucleotide. Brain somatic SNVs have been reported on and accumulate throughout our lives and can sometimes be associated with a range of neurological diseases. The number of somatic SNVs did not differ between individuals with AD and non-demented controls. Interestingly, somatic SNVs in AD brains arise about 4.8 times more slowly than in blood. When the team performed gene-set enrichment tests, 26.9 percent of the AD brain samples had pathogenic brain somatic SNVs known to be linked to hyperphosphorylation of tau proteins, which is one of major hallmarks of AD. Then, they pinpointed a pathogenic SNV in the PIN1 gene, a cis/trans isomerase that balances phosphorylation in tau proteins, found in one AD patient’s brain. They found the mutation was 4.9 time more abundant in AT8-positive – a marker for hyper-phosphorylated tau proteins– neurons in the entorhinal cortex than the bulk hippocampal tissue. Furthermore, in a series of functional assays, they observed the mutation causing a loss of function in PIN1 and such haploinsufficiency increased the phosphorylation and aggregation of tau proteins. “Our study provides new insights into the molecular genetic factors behind Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases potentially linked to somatic mutations in the brain,” said Professor Lee. The team is planning to expand their study to a larger cohort in order to establish stronger links between these brain somatic mutations and the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. (Figure 1. Bioinformatic pipeline for detecting low-level brain somatic mutations in AD and non-AD.) (Figure 2. Pathogenic brain somatic mutations associated with tau phosphorylation are significantly enriched in AD brains.) (Figure 3. A pathogenic brain somatic mutation in PIN1 (c. 477 C>T) is a loss-of-function and related functional assays show its haploinsufficiency increases phosphorylation and aggregation of tau.)
Novel Via-Hole-Less Multilevel Metal Interconnection Methods
Forming reliable multi-level metal interconnections is a key technology for integrating devices into organic integrated circuits (ICs). The conventional approach, called “via-hole,” locally removes the insulator and utilizes metal interconnects through the holes. Due to the high sensitivity of organic materials to chemical solvents, heat, and photo-radiation used in conventional “via-hole” methods, alternative printing methods or laser drilling methods have been developed. However, finding a reliable and practical metal interconnection for organic ICs is still challenging. The research team of KAIST Professor Sung Gap Im and Postech Professor Kim Jae-Joon reported a new interconnection method that does not require via-hole formation, “via-hole-less metal interconnection,” in Nature Communications on June 3. Metal electrodes in different layers can be isolated from each other by patterned dielectric layers, where they then can be interconnected to others in the open area where the dielectric layer is not present. See the images below. Vapor phase deposition and in-situ patterning of dielectric layer using iCVD (initiated chemical vapor deposition), used in the “via-hole-less” method, ensure a damage-free process for organic semiconductor materials and result in outstanding performance of the organic devices as multilevel metal interconnects are reliably formed. The team successfully demonstrated three-dimensional (3D) stacking of five organic transistors and integrated circuits using the proposed via-hole-less interconnect method. See the image below. Vapor phase deposition and in-situ patterning of dielectric layer using iCVD (initiated chemical vapor deposition), used in the “via-hole-less” method, ensure a damage-free process for organic semiconductor materials and result in outstanding performance of the organic devices as multilevel metal interconnects are reliably formed. The team successfully demonstrated three-dimensional (3D) stacking of five organic transistors and integrated circuits using the proposed via-hole-less interconnect method. See the image below. Professor Kim explained, “Our proposed via-hole-less interconnect method using a selectively patterned dielectric overcomes the limitations of the previous time-consuming, one-by-one via-hole formation process and provides reliable methods for creating metal interconnects in organic ICs. We expect the via-hole-less scheme to bring advances to organic IC technology.”
Fast-Charging Lithium-Oxygen Batteries
(Professor Hye Ryung Byon) KAIST researchers have paved the way for fast-charging lithium-oxygen batteries. Professor Hye Ryung Byon from the Department of Chemistry and Professor Yousung Jung from the Graduate School of EEWS led a joint research team to develop lithium-oxygen batteries exhibiting 80% round-trip efficiency even at high charging rates, solving the problem of existing lithium-oxygen batteries which generally showed drastically lower efficiencies when the charge current rate was increased. This study exploits the size and shape lithium peroxide, a discharge product, which is known to cause the very problems mentioned above. In doing so, the researchers have lowered the overpotential, which is the difference between the thermodynamic reversible potential and the measured potential, and simultaneously improved battery efficiency. Of particular interest is the fact that these high-performance lithium-oxygen batteries can be realized without costly catalysts. One remarkable property of lithium-oxygen batteries is that they can accommodate three to five times the energy density of lithium-ion batteries commonly used today. Therefore, lithium-oxygen batteries would render longer driving distance to electric vehicles or drones, which operate on the continued use of electrical power. However, their weakness lies in that, during charge, the lithium peroxide remains undecomposed at low overpotential, resulting in eventually compromising the battery’s overall performance. This is due to the poor ionic and electrical conductivity of lithium peroxide. To tackle this issue, the researchers could form one-dimensional amorphous lithium peroxide nanostructures through the use of a mesoporous carbon electrode, CMK-3. When compared against non-mesoporous electrodes, CMK-3 showed exceptionally lower overpotential, thereby enhancing the round-trip efficiency of lithium-oxygen batteries. The amorphous lithium peroxide produced along the electrode has a small volume and a large surface area contacting electrolyte solution, which is presumably endowed with high conductivity to speed up the charging of the lithium-oxygen batteries. This research underpins the feasibility of overcoming the fundamental limitations of lithium-oxygen batteries even without the addition of expensive catalytic materials, but rather by the re-configuration of the size and shape of the lithium peroxide. The findings of this research were published in Nature Communications on February 14. Figure 1. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) images Figure 2. Galvanostatic rate capability Figure 3. Density functional calculation and Bader charge analysis
Undergrad's Paper Chosen as the Cover Article in Soft Matter
(from left: Research Professor KyuHan Kim and Undergrad Student Subeen Kim) A KAIST undergraduate student, Subeen Kim, had his paper chosen as the cover article in an international journal during his senior year. There have been an increasing number of undergraduate students who were published as the first author because the KAIST Undergraduate Research Participation program allows more active research participation by undergraduate students. Through URP, Kim successfully published his paper in the internationally-renowned journal, Soft Matter, which is published by the Royal Society of Chemistry, and it was chosen as the cover article of that journal in February 2018. This publication means a lot to him because he designed the cover image himself, based on his imagination and observations. His research is about controllable one-step double emulsion formation. Double emulsion is a system in which dispersed droplets contain additional immiscible liquid droplets. Having great retention ability, double emulsion has been used in various applications in the food industry, in cosmetics, and for drug delivery. Nevertheless, two-step emulsification is a conventional approach to produce double emulsions that typically leads to partial destabilization of the emulsion formed during the initial stage. Hence, it does not ensure the stability of a double emulsion. On the other hand, a microfluidic approach with various flow-focusing techniques has been developed, but it has low production efficiency and thus limited industrial applications. Kim’s results came from the process of phase inversion to solve this problem. He identified the instant formation of double emulsions during the process of phase inversion. Based on this finding, he proposed criteria to achieve high stability of double emulsion. Through constant research, he developed a quite general method using a combination of an oil soluble poly methyl methacrylate (PMMA) and hydrophobic silica nanoparticle (HDK H18). This new method enables one-step and stable production of double emersions in a stable manner. It also allows control of the number and the volume of inner oil droplets inside the outer water droplets by adjusting PMMA and HDK H18. Kim enrolled at KAIST as a KAIST Presidential Fellowship and Presidential Science Scholarship in 2014. While studying both chemical and biomolecular engineering and chemistry he has been developing his hypothesis and conducting research. He was able to begin conducting research because he has taken part in URP projects twice. In his sophomore year, he studied the formation of high internal phase double emulsions. After one year, he conducted research to produce superabsorbent resins, which are the base material for diapers, by using colloid particles. Using partial research outcomes, he published his paper in Nature Communications as a second author. Kim said, “Double majoring the chemical and biomolecular engineering and chemistry has helped me producing this outcome. I hope that this research contributes to commercializing double emulsions. I will continue to identify accurate principles to produce chemicals that can be controlled exquisitely.” Figure 1. The cover article of Soft Matter
One-Step Production of Aromatic Polyesters by E. coli Strains
KAIST systems metabolic engineers defined a novel strategy for microbial aromatic polyesters production fused with synthetic biology from renewable biomass. The team of Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering produced aromatic polyesters from Escherichia coli (E. coli) strains by applying microbial fermentation, employing direct microbial fermentation from renewable feedstock carbohydrates. This is the first report to determine a platform strain of engineered E. coli capable of producing environmentally friendly aromatic polyesters. This engineered E. coli strain, if desired, has the potential to be used as a platform strain capable of producing various high-valued aromatic polyesters from renewable biomass. This research was published in Nature Communications on January 8. Conventionally, aromatic polyesters boast solid strength and heat stability so that there has been a great deal of interest in fermentative production of aromatic polyesters from renewable non-food biomass, but without success. However, aromatic polyesters are only made by feeding the cells with corresponding aromatic monomers as substrates, and have not been produced by direct fermentation from renewable feedstock carbohydrates such as glucose. To address this issue, the team prescribed the detailed procedure for aromatic polyester production through identifying CoA-transferase that activates phenylalkanoates into their corresponding CoA derivatives. In this process, researchers employed metabolic engineering of E. coli to produce phenylalkanoates from glucose based on genome-scale metabolic flux analysis. In particular, the KAIST team made a modulation of gene expression to produce various aromatic polyesters having different monomer fractions. The research team successfully produced aromatic polyesters, a non-natural polymer using the strategy that combines systems metabolic engineering and synthetic biology. They succeeded in biosynthesis of various kinds of aromatic polyesters through the system, thus proving the technical excellence of the environmentally friendly biosynthetic system of this research. Furthermore, his team also proved the potential of expanding the range of aromatic polyesters from renewable resources, which is expected to play an important role in the bio-plastic industry. Professor Lee said, “An eco-friendly and sustainable chemical industry is the key global agenda every nation faces. We are making a research focus to a biochemical industry free from petroleum dependence, and conducting diverse research activities to address the issue. This novel technology we are presenting will serve as an opportunity to advance the biochemical industry moving forward.” This work was supported by the Intelligent Synthetic Biology Center through the Global Frontier Project (2011-0031963) and also by the Technology Development Program to Solve Climate Changes on Systems Metabolic Engineering for Biorefineries (NRF-2012M1A2A2026556 and NRF-2012M1A2A2026557) from the Ministry of Science and ICT through the National Research Foundation of Korea. Figure: Biosynthesis of aromatic polyesters by metabolically engineered E. coli.This schematic diagram shows the overall conceptualization of how metabolically engineered E. coli produced aromatic polyesters from glucose.
Expanding the Genetic Code of Mus Musculus
Professor Hee-Sung Park of the Department of Chemistry, who garnered attention for his novel strategy of installing authentic post-translational modifications into recombinant proteins, expanded his research portfolio to another level. Professor Park’s team was the first to report the generation of a mouse strain with an expanded genetic code, allowing site-specific incorporation of unnatural amino acids. Professor Park published the research on the new chemical biology method for achieving selective chemical modifications in proteins in Science last September. The research team, this time in collaboration with Professor Chan Bae Park of the Department of Physiology at the Ajou University School of Medicine, demonstrated temporal and spatial control of protein acetylation in various organs of the transgenic mouse using a recombinant green fluorescent protein as a model protein. This research was published in the online edition of Nature Communications on February 21. This approach enables the rapid onset of position-specific acetylation of a target protein at any developmental stage, facilitating temporal and spatial control of protein acetylation in various organs of the transgenic mouse. Such temporal and spatial control of protein acetylation will be of prime importance for investigating many essential biological processes and human diseases at the tissue and organism level. Almost all human proteins, the products of about 25,000 genes, are known to undergo various post-translational modifications during and after synthesis. Post-translation modifications regulate the function of cellular proteins, playing a key role in many essential processes such as delivering signals and body growth. However, the unusual protein modifications, aroused from genetic and/or environmental factors, trigger severe diseases including cancer, dementia, and diabetes. The team inserted transgenes into the mouse genome to allocate the site-specific addition of unnatural amino acids. The researchers inserted a modified version of lysine into the house mice, which allowed for the control of the acetylation. They used recombinant green fluorescent proteins from transgenic house mice as models for control of the acetylation. The team was also able to regulate the acetylation of specific temporal and spatial frames in the mice, restraining the abnormality in proteins to certain organs such as the liver and kidneys. The research team said the strategy will provide a powerful tool for systematic in vivo study of cellular proteins in the most commonly used mammalian model organisms for human physiology and disease. Professor Park said, “This method can be easily extended to generate a wide range of custom-made transgenic mouse strains for further investigating diverse proteins of interest.” He added, “This method can be further extended to generate a wide range of custom-made transgenic mouse strains, opening a new paradigm for investigating anti-cancer and cerebral disease treatments. This work was supported by grants from KAIST Systems Healthcare and the Medicinal Bioconvergence Research Center and the Intelligent Synthetic Biology Center of the Global Frontier Project funded by the Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning and the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety. (Figure:Temporal and spatial control of in vivo protein acetylation) (a) Temporal expression of acetylated GFPuv in the AcK-GFPamber mouse. The expression of GFPuv in skeletal muscle, liver, and lung tissues was detected only in the AcK-injected mouse. Scale bar, 200 µm. (b) Western blotting of anti-FLAG-immunoprecipitated proteins from tissues of the AcK-GFPamber mouse. Acetylated GFPuv was produced after AcK injection. (c) Spatial expression of acetylated GFPuv in the AcK-GFPamber mouse. Acetylated GFPuv was observed only in skeletal muscle when AcK was directly delivered to the tissues. Sacle bar, 200 µm.
Adsorbent That Can Selectively Remove Water Contaminants
Professor Cafer T. Yavuz and his team at the Graduate School of Energy, Environment, Water, and Sustainability (EEWS) have developed an adsorbent that can selectively capture soluble organic contaminants in water. This water treatment adsorbent is a fluorine-based nanoporous polymer that can selectively remove water-soluble micromolecules. It has the added advantage of being cheap and easily synthesized, while also being renewable. The results of this research have been published online in Nature Communication on November 10, 2016. The research paper is titled “Charge-specific Size-dependent Separation of Water-soluble Organic Molecules by Fluorinated Nanoporous Networks.” (DOI: 10.1038/ncomms13377) Water pollution is accelerating as a result of global industrial development and warming. As new materials are produced and applied in the agricultural and industrial sectors, the types of contaminants expelled as sewage and waste water are also becoming diverse. Chemicals such as dyes and pesticides can be especially harmful because they are made up of small and highly soluble organic particles that cannot be completely removed during the water treatment process, ultimately ending up in our drinking water. The current conventional water treatment systems utilize processes such as activated carbon, ozonolysis, and reverse osmosis membrane. These processes, however, are designed to remove larger organic molecules with lower solubility, thus removal of very small molecules with high solubility is difficult. In addition, these micromolecules tend to be charged, therefore are less easily separated in aqueous form. The research team aimed to remove these small molecules using a new adsorbent technology. In order to remove aqueous organic molecular contaminants, the team needed an adsorbent that can adsorb micro-sized molecules. It also needed to introduce a chemical function that would allow it to selectively adsorb molecules, and lastly, the adsorbent needed to be structurally stable as it would be used underwater. The team subsequently developed an adsorbent of fluorine-based porous organic polymer that met all the conditions listed above. By controlling the size of the pores, this adsorbent is able to selectively adsorb aqueous micromolecules of less than 1-2 nm in size. In addition, in order to separate specific contaminants, there should be a chemical functionality, such as the ability to strongly interact with the target material. Fluorine, the most electronegative atom, interacts strongly with charged soluble organic molecules. The research team incorporated fluorine into an adsorbent, enabling it to separate charged organic molecules up to 8 times faster than neutral molecules. The adsorbent developed by Professor Yavuz’s team has wide industrial applications. It can be used in batch-adsorption tests, as well as in column separation for size- and charge-specific adsorption. Professor Yavuz stated that “the charge-selective properties displayed by fluorine has the potential to be applied in desalination or water treatment processes using membranes." This paper was first-authored by Dr. Jeehye Byun, and the research was funded by KAIST’s High Risk High Return Program and the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning of Korea’s Mid-Career Researcher Program, as well as its Technology Development Program to Solve Climate Change. Figure 1. Diagram conceptualizing the process of charge- and size-specific separation by the fluorine-based porous polymer adsorbent Figure 2. Difference in absorbance before and after using a porous fluorine polymer column to separate organic molecules Figure 3. Adsorption properties of a fluorine polymer according to the charge and size of organic molecules
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