Korean scientists develop new stem cell tech

Korean scientists reported a breakthrough technology that can more efficiently and safely reprogram adult cells to an embryo-like state, where they can grow into organs.

The two research teams led by professor Park Se-pill at Jeju National University Stem Cell Research Center and Mirae Biotech succeeded in generating induced pluripotent stem cells using non-viral vectors of nanoparticles and liposomal magnetofection. Non-viral vectors usually consist of DNA that can be delivered to a target cell. The findings were featured in the latest edition of the peer-reviewed scientific journal PLOS One late last month.

For full article, see Korea Herald.

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SNU professor finds new role of stem cell protein

Professor Kim V-narry of Seoul National University is once again in the headlines producing research results published in the online version of the leading biological journal Cell for the second time in less than two weeks. In her most recent research, Kim and her team proved that the protein Lin-28A is closely involved in suppressing protein expression in stem cells.

Until now, the Lin-28 protein’s only known function was suppression of specific microRNA molecules, which in turn regulate gene expression. In the previous research, the results of which were published in the online version of the Cell on Oct. 12, Kim and her team discovered a previously unknown step in the production of microRNA let-7.

In the latest research, Kim’s team used a technique known as crosslinking immunoprecipitation-sequencing to identify to which RNA molecules the Lin-28A protein binds to in living stem cells. Through the experiment the team discovered that Lin-28A binds not only to microRNA molecules, as previously thought, but also to a large number of RNA molecules involved in protein synthesis that takes place on the surface of the rough endoplasmic reticulum.

For full article, see Korea Herald.

Boon for next-generation displays

Korean scientists have developed new organic materials that may help the electronics industry produce next-generation displays and maintain its global competitiveness. A team of scientists led by professor Choi Dong-hoon of Korea University said it has discovered extended conjugated molecules through compounds of porphyrin. The porphyrin derivatives may be used to boost the efficiency of semiconducting devices such as organic field-effect transistors for next generation displays, it said.

The organic materials could be applied to the development of flexible displays, transparent displays and foldable displays, or the convergence of all these types of future displays, which, experts said, could replace newspapers and magazines in the near future. The team found that the materials provide “strong intermolecular interactions, while enhancing the charge-transport efficiency” in organic FETs as well as optoelectronic devices.

For full article, see Korea Herald.

Where are Korea’s Nobel scientists?

Korea naturally has a sense of competitiveness with its island neighbor, Japan. Sports is a prime example, especially in soccer. After liberation, the Korean national team competed in its first match against Japan in March 1954 in Switzerland for a World Cup regional qualification match. And it beat Japan by an overwhelming 5 to 1. In a total of 75 matches against Japan, the Korean national soccer team has won 40 games, tied 22 and lost only 13.

In economics, Korea has rapidly caught up to Japan during its two “lost decades,” the period between the 1990s and 2000s following Japan’s strong economic growth. Samsung Electronics, Korea’s representative corporation, once lagged far behind Japan’s Sony.

[…]

[W]hen is Korea due for a Nobel Prize? The Nobel Committee is thus far unresponsive, though Korea is making progress. In 2010, Philip Kim, a professor at Columbia University, almost won a Physics prize. The award was given to Russian-born Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, working for the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, for their work on graphene, a two-dimensional carbon structure with potential in the field of electronics. Scientific experts stated that Kim, who made major contributions to the research, which Geim also acknowledged, should have been awarded as well.

According to the IMD report in 2012, Korea ranked fifth in the world in scientific competitiveness while Japan came in second. In 2004, Korea ranked 17. Likewise, the government has for the past decade reinforced investment in the area of science and research and development.

For full article, see Joongang Daily.

SW industry develops the core technology of vertical farming

Since Professor Dickson Donald Despommie of the Public Health and Environmental Health Sciences Department at Columbia University established the concept of Vertical Farming, it has emerged as an alternative solution to food and farmland shortages. In 2009, he presented a blueprint saying that “a 30-story building can provide food for 50,000 people” when he attended an academic event in South Korea.

South Korea, taking advantage of it strengths in IT, BT, ET technologies, is stepping up its efforts to develop this area.

At a time where food self-sufficiency is on the decline every year in Korea, it is no surprise to see high expectations for Vertical Farming. For that reason, the Korean government considers it an alternative solution to addressing food shortages in the future, and is subsequently providing more investments in the area.

In 2009, the Rural Development Administration, in collaboration with Marine Research Institute developed and dispatched the Vertical Farm to the King Sejong Antarctic Station. It was Korea’s first government sponsored vertical farm. In 2011, the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (Seodun-dong, Kwonsun-gu, Suwon-city, Gyeonggi-do) under the Rural Development set up a vertical farm in a total floor area of 396 ㎡ designed for research.

For full article, see Korea IT Times.

SHI to construct large-scale offshore wind farm in Jeju

South Korean shipbuilder Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) and the state-run Korea Southern Power Corporation (KOSPO) are on track to build the nation’s first large-scale offshore wind farm in Jeju Island. SHI announced that it obtained an order from its special purpose company (SPC) to build 12 units of 7-megawatt (MW) offshore wind turbines.

Earlier last month, SHI partnered with the KOSPO and established an SPC, namely, Daejeong Offshore Wind Power. SHI plans to complete construction by the end of 2014 and start commercial operation from 2015. SHI’s 7MW offshore wind turbines boast the world’s largest power output and their power generation efficiency.

For full article see Maeil Business.

Scientists identify a source of neural disorders

A group of South Korean scientists have discovered what could be a significant source of neurological disorders, such as depression, and may lead to the development of better treatment for such illnesses, the science ministry said Saturday.

The team led by Lee Chang-joon, a researcher from the Korea Institute of Science & Technology, confirmed for the first time in the world that non-neuronal cells can secrete glutamate, a neurotransmitter that is important for learning and memory, according to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.

Abnormal secretion of glutamate can cause an imbalance between substances in the human nervous system that stimulate or depress and could lead to neurological disorders, according to the research team, which also included Prof. Park Jae-yong of the Gyeongsang National University and Prof. Bae Yong-cheol of Kyungpook National University.

For full article see Korea Herald.