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KAIST and Seoul National University Agree to Expand Cooperation in Education and Research
The presidents of two top-notch universities in Korea, KAIST and Seoul National University (SNU), met on July 23rd at the SNU campus and agreed to expand their academic cooperation to promote the univresities" mutual development. To start, President Yeon-Cheon Oh of SNU proposed a student exchange program through which SNU students can take courses at KAIST for six months. In return, President Steve Kang suggested that KAIST establish a liaison office on the SNU campus to facilitate better communication between two universities, thereby developing more exchange programs for research and education.Additionally, the two public universities will set up a task force to implement the agreement, conduct joint research programs, and hold regular meetings between their faculty members.President Kang said, “SNU has superb academic and research programs not only in the fields of science and technology but also in the humanities, arts, and social sciences. KAIST will surely benefit from SNU’s excellence in a broad range of academic disciplines, and SNU will have an opportunity to capitalize on KAIST’s expertise in science, engineering, and technology to enhance its growth.”At the conclusion of their consultation, the presidents expressed the hope that the agreement will strengthen the two institutions" capacity for competitiveness and globalization, preparing them to compete with leading universities in the world.
Ligand Recognition Mechanism of Protein Identified
Professor Hak-Sung Kim -“Solved the 50 year old mystery of how protein recognises and binds to ligands” - Exciting potential for understanding life phenomena and the further development of highly effective therapeutic agent development KAIST’s Biological Science Department’s Professor Hak-Sung Kim, working in collaboration with Professor Sung-Chul Hong of Department of Physics, Seoul National University, has identified the mechanism of how the protein recognizes and binds to ligands within the human body. The research findings were published in the online edition of Nature Chemical Biology (March 18), which is the most prestigious journal in the field of life science. Since the research identified the mechanism, of which protein recognises and binds to ligands, it will take an essential role in understanding complex life phenomenon by understanding regulatory function of protein. Also, ligand recognition of proteins is closely related to the cause of various diseases. Therefore the research team hopes to contribute to the development of highly effective treatments. Ligands, well-known examples include nucleic acid and proteins, form the structure of an organism or are essential constituents with special functions such as information signalling. In particular, the most important role of protein is recognising and binding to a particular ligand and hence regulating and maintaining life phenomena. The abnormal occurrence of an error in recognition of ligands may lead to various diseases. The research team focused on the repetition of change in protein structure from the most stable “open form” to a relatively unstable “partially closed form”. Professor Kim’s team analysed the change in protein structure when binding to a ligand on a molecular level in real time to explain the ligand recognition mechanism. The research findings showed that ligands prefer the most stable protein structure. The team was the first in the world to identify that ligands alter protein structure to the most stable, the lowest energy level, when it binds to the protein. In addition, the team found that ligands bind to unstable partially-closed forms to change protein structure. The existing models to explain ligand recognition mechanism of protein are “Induced Custom Model”, which involves change in protein structure in binding to ligands, and the “Structure Selection Model”, which argues that ligands select and recognise only the best protein structure out of many. The academic world considers that the team’s research findings have perfectly proved the models through experiments for the first time in the world. Professor Kim explained, “In the presence of ligands, there exists a phenomenon where the speed of altering protein structure is changed. This phenomenon is analysed on a molecular level to prove ligand recognition mechanism of protein for the first time”. He also said, “The 50-year old mystery, that existed only as a hypothesis on biology textbooks and was thought never to be solved, has been confirmed through experiments for the first time.” Figure 1: Proteins, with open and partially open form, recognising and binding to ligands. Figure 2: Ligands temporarily bind to a stable protein structure, open form, which changes into the most stable structure, closed form. In addition, binding to partially closed form also changes protein structure to closed form.
NPKI Launch Workshop Held
Molecular Physics Department Expected to Have ‘NPKI’ Launch Workshop - Numerous physicists tracking the god-particle ‘Higgs’ attending- The NPKI: New Physics at Korea Institute which was launched a six day workshop in Shinla Hotel, Seoul with 50 physicists from in and out of the country. The event started with Professor Gi Woon Choi’s welcoming speech. A heated debate with the theme ‘Top physics and electroweak symmetry breaking in the LHC era’ took place in the event. NPKI was created this year to search into the most fundamental workings of nature, research the meaning of such mechanisms, and share this knowledge with not only the general public, but also with the teenagers who wish to someday become physicists. Professor Gi Woon Choi from KAIST, Professors Byoung Wong Ko and Eung Jin Jeon from the Advanced Science Institute, and more are participated in this workshop from Korea. From abroad, world renowned professors such as Prof. Csaba Csaki from Cornell, Prof. Christophe Grojean from CERN, Prof. Erez Etzion from Tel Aviv University of Israel, and Prof. Zoltan Ligeti from UC Berkley participated in this event. The ‘Seeds Program’ took place. This is a program where 20 high school and middle school students aspiring to become physicists were able to attend the work shop without any due fee to experience the world of physicists. The students chosen for the program were able to attend the conference to watch debates of real physicists as well as experience the academic lives of physicists. They were also able to attend the lecture conducted by Prof. Gilad Perez from CERN and were granted question and answer sessions as well. The workshop was hosted by NPKI, and sponsored by Shinla Hotel, BK21 KAIST Physics, department of physics of KAIST, department of physics in Seoul National University, the Advanced Science Institute, and the Center for Quantum Spacetime
Artificial Spore Production Technology Developed
The core technology needed in the development of ‘biosensors’ so crucial in diagnosing illnesses or pathogens was developed by Korean research team. KAIST’s Professor Choi In Seung of the department of Chemistry developed the technology that allows for the production of Artificial Spore by selectively coating a live cell. In the field of engineering the problem in developing the next generation bio sensor, the cell based sensor, was that it was difficult to keep a cell alive without division for a long time. Once a cell is taken out of the body, it will either divide or die easily. Professor Choi’s research team mimicked the spore, which has the capability to survive harsh conditions without division, and chemically coated a live cell and artificially created a cell similar to that of a spore. The physical and biological stabilities of the cell increased by coating an artificial shell over the yeast cell. The shell is composed with a protein similar to that of the protein that gives mussels its stickiness. In addition by controlling the thickness of the shell, the division rate of the yeast can be controlled. Professor Choi commented that this technology will serve as the basis for the single cell based biosensor. The research was conducted together with Professor Lee Hae Shin of KAIST department of Chemistry and Professor Jeong Taek Dong of Seoul National University’s department of Chemistry and was published as the cover paper of ‘Journal of the American Chemical Society’.
Professor Min Beom Ki develops metamaterial with high index of refraction
Korean research team was able to theoretically prove that a metamaterial with high index of refraction does exist and produced it experimentally. Professor Min Beom Ki, Dr. Choi Moo Han, and Doctorate candidate Lee Seung Hoon was joined by Dr. Kang Kwang Yong’s team from ETRI, KAIST’s Professor Less Yong Hee’s team, and Seoul National University’s Professor Park Nam Kyu’s team. The research was funded by the Basic Research Support Program initiated by the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology and Korea Research Federation. The result of the research was published in ‘Nature’ magazine and is one of the few researches carried out by teams composed entirely of Koreans. Metamaterials are materials that have physical properties beyond those materials’ properties that are found in nature. It is formed not with atoms, but with synthetic atoms which have smaller structures than wavelengths. The optical and electromagnetic waves’ properties of metamaterials can be altered significantly which has caught the attention of scientists worldwide. Professor Min Beom Ki’s team independently designed and created a dielectric metamaterial with high polarization and low diamagnetism with an index of refraction of 38.6, highest synthesized index value. It is expected that the result of the experiment will help develop high resolution imaging system and ultra small, hyper sensitive optical devices.
Native-like Spider Silk Produced in Metabolically Engineered Bacterium
Microscopic picture of 285 kilodalton recombinant spider silk fiber Researchers have long envied spiders’ ability to manufacture silk that is light-weighted while as strong and tough as steel or Kevlar. Indeed, finer than human hair, five times stronger by weight than steel, and three times tougher than the top quality man-made fiber Kevlar, spider dragline silk is an ideal material for numerous applications. Suggested industrial applications have ranged from parachute cords and protective clothing to composite materials in aircrafts. Also, many biomedical applications are envisioned due to its biocompatibility and biodegradability. Unfortunately, natural dragline silk cannot be conveniently obtained by farming spiders because they are highly territorial and aggressive. To develop a more sustainable process, can scientists mass-produce artificial silk while maintaining the amazing properties of native silk? That is something Sang Yup Lee at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in Daejeon, the Republic of Korea, and his collaborators, Professor Young Hwan Park at Seoul National University and Professor David Kaplan at Tufts University, wanted to figure out. Their method is very similar to what spiders essentially do: first, expression of recombinant silk proteins; second, making the soluble silk proteins into water-insoluble fibers through spinning. For the successful expression of high molecular weight spider silk protein, Professor Lee and his colleagues pieced together the silk gene from chemically synthesized oligonucleotides, and then inserted it into the expression host (in this case, an industrially safe bacterium Escherichia coli which is normally found in our gut). Initially, the bacterium refused to the challenging task of producing high molecular weight spider silk protein due to the unique characteristics of the protein, such as extremely large size, repetitive nature of the protein structure, and biased abundance of a particular amino acid glycine. “To make E. coli synthesize this ultra high molecular weight (as big as 285 kilodalton) spider silk protein having highly repetitive amino acid sequence, we helped E. coli overcome the difficulties by systems metabolic engineering,” says Sang Yup Lee, Distinguished Professor of KAIST, who led this project. His team boosted the pool of glycyl-tRNA, the major building block of spider silk protein synthesis. “We could obtain appreciable expression of the 285 kilodalton spider silk protein, which is the largest recombinant silk protein ever produced in E. coli. That was really incredible.” says Dr. Xia. But this was only step one. The KAIST team performed high-cell-density cultures for mass production of the recombinant spider silk protein. Then, the team developed a simple, easy to scale-up purification process for the recombinant spider silk protein. The purified spider silk protein could be spun into beautiful silk fiber. To study the mechanical properties of the artificial spider silk, the researchers determined tenacity, elongation, and Young’s modulus, the three critical mechanical parameters that represent a fiber’s strength, extensibility, and stiffness. Importantly, the artificial fiber displayed the tenacity, elongation, and Young’s modulus of 508 MPa, 15%, and 21 GPa, respectively, which are comparable to those of the native spider silk. “We have offered an overall platform for mass production of native-like spider dragline silk. This platform would enable us to have broader industrial and biomedical applications for spider silk. Moreover, many other silk-like biomaterials such as elastin, collagen, byssus, resilin, and other repetitive proteins have similar features to spider silk protein. Thus, our platform should also be useful for their efficient bio-based production and applications,” concludes Professor Lee. This work is published on July 26 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) online.
KAIST to Host ITTP Conference in Tunisia
KAIST"s Global IT Technology Program (ITTP) will host an international conference at Hammamet Hotel in Tunisia in cooperation with its counterpart at Seoul National University (SNU) on Nov. 23, university authorities said on Wednesday (Nov. 18). The event is a pre-conference for the ICT4All Forum on Nov. 24-25 which the Tunisian government is organizing with the ADB, World Bank, Arab Society for Intellectual Property and the UTICA to deal with developing information and communication technologies. KAIST"s ITTP which started in 2006 is designed to build global network of IT leaders around the world. The program supported by the Korean Ministry of Knowledge and Economy offers a customized master"s and doctoral degree program for foreign government officials, employees of public institutions and senior researchers at national research centers working in the IT fields. Scholarships are provided for all trainees, for up to 2 years for master"s students and up to 3 years for doctoral students. The program focuses on transferring advanced technologies and business strategies of Korea to the global IT leaders of the next generation. During the conference, seven government officials from as many countries currently under the KAIST or SNU programs will present international cooperation cases based on their own experiences in the IT fields. KAIST ITTP organizers will also provide an educational session on the mobile government for Tunisian experts and conference participants in the information and communications fields.
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