Professor Sungroh Yoon, Research of the year in biological science (Donga Science, 20181218)

2019-01-02l Hit 534

This year’s noteworthy research in biology according to BRIC

Research that uncovered where memory is stored in the brain and how petals fall off were selected as this year’s most notable research by professionals of medicine and biology in Korea.

On the 17th, POSTECH Biological Research Information Center (BRIC) announced the results of an online vote for this year’s most commendable research accomplishments in biology. 1295 biomedicine researchers were asked. Five topics were selected in each of the fields including ‘biological science’ for basic sciences, ‘convergent biotechnology’ for the merging of biology and other academic fields, ‘medical science’, ‘general news’ for bio-related news, and ‘this year’s keyword’ field.

In the biological science field for basic sciences, several in-depth researches that sought the fundamental reason for life were chosen. These included research (below) by SNU Biological Sciences Department Professor Bong-kiun Kaang’s team that revealed the specific location of memory storage for the first time, joint research conducted by Yuree Lee, a researcher at the Center for Plant Aging Research in the Institute for Basic Science, and the research team of June M. Kwak, a professor at Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology(DGIST), which shed light on the significant role lignin plays when the petals of a plant fall off, and joint research by Cheolju Lee, Principal Investigator at Korea Institute of Science and Technology(KIST), and the team of POSTECH Professor Cheol-Sang Hwang which elucidated the coevolution mechanism of life by unraveling the process of protein biosynthesis in prokaryotes and eukaryotes.

On the list, there were also works of star scientists that flaunted world-class bioengineering technology. Research by Jin-Soo Kim, Director of the IBS Center for Genome Engineering, who used adenine base editing to successfully alter only one portion of the DNA of an animal(mouse) for the first time and research by Professor Narry Kim of SNU School of Biological Sciences who discovered the existence of a combined tail sequence of other bases within a messenger RNA’s poly adenine(A) tail and its ability of protection were also listed together.

SNU Professor Bong-kiun Kaang’s team identified the differences between types of synapses through a newly developed chemical detection method. The yellow spots above the red dendrites indicate where the synapses for memory storage are located. The left picture is an observed image and the right is its 3-dimensional model.–Photo credit SNU

In the convergent biotechnology field concerning co-research of biology and other fields, attention was given to research with practicality. KAIST Professor Sang Yup Lee’s research, through which he developed a method that uses ecofriendly biomass to make plastic and recycle plastic wastes, was chosen as convergent research between biology and chemistry. Development of an illness diagnosis technique using a single drop of body fluid by KIST Principal Investigator Jungmok Seo and Yonsei University Professor Taeyoon Lee’s team and an AI-based CIRSPR efficiency predictor developed by SNU Professor Sungroh Yoon and Yonsei University Professor Hyongbum Kim’s team were chosen as technology that will innovate medicine and biology through fusion with engineering technology.

Research by the teams of Sogang University Professors Kwang-Hwan Jung and Kwanwoo Shin and Sung Kyun Kwan University Professor Tae Kyu Ahn who developed artificial cells that photosynthesize on their own and research by SNU Professor Tae-Woo Lee’s team that developed artificial neurons were acknowledged for their contribution to expanding the horizons of biology by merging with engineering.

In the field of medical science, which treats basic medicine, research related to treatment particularly attracted attention. These included the research of Yonsei University Professor Hyun Seok Kim, who discovered 171 cancer drug targets that can cure intractable lung cancer, research by the team of Dongguk University Professor Seung-Yoon Park and KIST Principal Investigator In-San Kim who developed a new treatment strategy to activate immunogenic cells that attack only cancer cells, and research by the team of Sung Kyun Kwan University Professors Jeeyun Lee and Do-hyun Nam who analyzed the reactions of targeted cancer therapies for 14 different cancers and developed a combinatorial therapy strategy.

Research that investigated the cause of illness also gathered up several votes. KAIST Professor Jeong Ho Lee’s research(below) that analyzed the cause of pediatric brain tumors that comes with epileptogenicity and research by the team of Yonsei University Professor Jun Yong Park and KAIST Professor Eui-Cheol Shin which revealed that T-regulatory cells can inflict inflammatory change and consequently aggravate the condition in viral hepatitis patients were acknowledged as excellent domestic research.

Research results of KAIST Professor Jeong Ho Lee’s team. An explanation of how a BRAF V600E mutation occurs and induces pediatric brain tumors accompanied by epileptogenicity –Photo Credit KAIST

On the list for the general news field where biological or medical news is chosen, there were topics related to industrial news and controversies over regulation that had been widely discussed. News related to Samsung BioLogics’ intentional accounting fraud and the reduction of part-time lecturers in universities to prepare for the upcoming legislation for the rights of part time instructors were selected as negative news. Many also voted for articles that handled the difficulties in the advancement of health industries due to regulatory barriers.

On the other hand, as for the positive news, articles relating that major technologies in pharmacy and biology were successfully exported to sum up to a total of 4.9 trillion won and that investment in bio-related fields reached over one trillion won for the first time in history were selected.

Sanitary goods used once or twice a month by women who have started menstruation.
Sanitary pads are most commonly used, and there are also products such as pantyliners and menstrual cups that are inserted.

Last of all, keywords that stirred up this year’s bio-related research included Radon and BCG vaccine, ‘detection of carcinogen’ in sanitary pads(above), ‘predatory conferences’ including WASET and OMICS, ‘microplastics’, ‘professor gabjil’ issues such as professors’ children coauthoring papers and the MeToo movement that had expanded to the scientific circles, and ‘cancer immunotherapy’ that was thrown into the spotlight as the recipient of this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

This survey was conducted on the BRIC homepage for five days from December 3rd to 7th, and results were determined through discussions within the internal advisory panel after the survey. It was sponsored by the ThermoFisher Scientific Solutions company and Abesco cooperation.

Beginning in 2003, BRIC has conducted a survey each year and asked researchers in the field of medicine and biological sciences to select ‘Top 10 Domestic News Related to Biology’. From 2011, it has changed the topic to ‘Top 5 News and Domestic Research Accomplishments in Biology’ and has announced the results each year.

Translated by: Jee Hyun Lee, English Editor of Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering,