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Three achievements of PKU selected as “China’s Top 10 Scientific Advances”

MAR . 13 2018
Peking University, March 2, 2018: On February 27, 2018, The Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) announced “China’s Top 10 Scientific Advances,” among them three programs of Peking University were selected—they are: “Direct Transformation of Viruses into Live Vaccines and Therapeutic Drugs”—the research achievement by the team of Professors Zhou Demin and Zhang Lihe from the State Key Laboratory of Natural and Biomimetic Drugs at Peking University School of Pharmaceutical Sciences; “Low-temperature hydrogen production and preservation” by Professor Ma Ding from College of Chemistry and Molecular Engineering (CCME), Shanxi Coal Chemical Plant of Chinese Academy, and Dalian University of Technology (DUT); “Fast high-resolution miniature two-photon microscopy for brain imaging in freely behaving mice” by the co-research group led by Cheng Heping from Institute of Molecular Medicine (IMM). Moreover, Professor Zhou Liping participated in the research of “China’s discovery of a new type of palaeoanthropology fossil.” All selected programs come from Key Research Bases of the State or Ministry of Education, PKU.

Direct Transformation of Viruses into Live Vaccines and Therapeutic Drugs

The research team of Zhou Demin and Zhang Lihe used the influenza virus as the model and retained its complete structure and infectivity. They mutated one of its triplet genetic codes into termination codon, and then the influenza virus was turned from a pathogenic source of infection into a preventive virus. More triplet genetic codes being mutated into termination codons, the virus was turned into a therapeutic drug.

The features of such vaccines are maintaining all of the antigens, the complete infectivity, and the same infection path of the wild-type virus. The vaccines could induce human body to generate intense and extensive humoral, nasal mucosal, and T-cell activated immune responses. But after infected with the vaccines, the human body would lack of replication. This method changed the standard idea of inactivated and attenuated vaccines, and will be a universal approach to developing live vaccines and can target almost all viruses.

The research has obtained long-term support from China’s Ministry of Science and Technology, National Natural Science Foundation, Ministry of Education, and Peking University. It is a typical example of our nation’s long-term support of basic researches and encouraging clinical translation of basic researches. It’s also one of the breakthrough achievements of PKU medical research. Science commented it as the revolutionary breakthrough in virus vaccines, and Nature called it “a new way to tame viruses”.The research findings were published in Science on December 2, 2016 (Science, 354 (6316): 1170-1173). 

Low-temperature hydrogen production and preservation

The research report co-authored by Ma Ding (CCME), Wen Xiaodong (Shanxi Coal Chemical Plant of Chinese Academy), and Shi Chuan (DUT) suggests that platinum (Pt) atomically dispersed on α-molybdenum carbide (α-MoC) can be used as catalysts for the aqueous-phase reforming of methanol, which, at lower temperatures (150-190℃), can show highly-activated hydrogen productivity with an average turnover frequency reaching 18,046 moles of hydrogen per mole of platinum per hour. The key to this is α-MoC’s prominent power of disassociating water and its collaboration with Pt to activate and reform methanol.

The relevant research paper was published in Nature on April 6, 2017 [Nature,544(7648):80—83]. Meantime, this team solved the conundrum that high reaction rate and high conversion rate could not be achieved concurrently in WGS (CO+H2O=CO2+H2), and published its results in Science on July 28, 2017 [Science, 357(6349):389—393]. 

Ma Ding’s research team centered on the catalytic process of energy sources and studies hydrogen production and transportation, the synthesis of high-value carbon-based chemicals, with its focus on the activation and reforming of C-H, O-H, C-P and other challenging problems at scientific frontiers. By innovating the process of catalytic reaction, the team tackled significant scientific problems in energy conversion by means of the operando and in-situ spectroscopic methods.

Fast high-resolution miniature two-photon microscopy for brain imaging in freely behaving mice

PKU assembled an interdisciplinary research team with its members coming from IMM and EECS led by Academician Cheng Heping. By integrating Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems technology, micro-optics and ultrafast fiber laser, the team has developed a ~two grams, miniaturized wearable two-photon microscope that enables high spatiotemporal resolution imaging in free moving mice. For the first time, they have used the microscope to resolve activity in single-spines in normal behaving mice. This technique opens up a new research paradigm that leads to the visualization of long-term, multi-scale, and multi-level dynamic information processing in vivo. With this tool, scientists will be able to have a clear peek into dynamic processes in brain, such as learning and memory and decision-making. It will also help the mechanistic study of neurologic diseases such as Autism, Alzheimer's disease and epilepsy. 

This research was published in Nature Methods [Nature Methods, 14(7):713-719] in July 2017, and we have applied for 6 national invention patents and 1 international patent. As a representative achievement originated from the support of the National Major Instrument Project from National Science Foundation of China, it had been selected as the “China’s Top 10 Advances in Sciences in 2017”, “China’s Top 10 Advances in Life Sciences” and “China’s Top 10 News in Medical Science and Technology in 2017”.

American renowned neuroscientist Alcino J Silva remarked in an essay on Light: Science&Application: “By every standard, this microscope represents a fundamental development that will change the way neuroscientists image cellular and subcellular structures in actively moving animals. It also inspires further efforts to design optical systems geared toward miniaturized imaging systems. The potential impact of this microscope goes beyond imaging of neuronal and dendritic activity. Systems neuroscience is primed to enter a new era, in which imaging of complex biological events in identified cells and subcellular structures of cell ensembles will bring us closer than ever before to understanding the very organizing principles underlying complex behaviors. This marvelous invention just brought us a step closer to that goal.” [Source: Miniaturized two-photon microscope: seeing clearer and deeper into the brainAlcino J Silva. Light: Science & Applications. Springer Nature. Aug 25, 2017]

In Oct. 2017, Prof. Edvard. I. Moser, Nobel Laureate Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2014, paid a special visit to PKU Interdisciplinary Joint Laboratory of the Miniaturized Two-photon Microscope. He highly praised the microscope and referred to it as a “revolutionary” new tool in neuroscience, and he commented in his email that “I believe that within a few years the new technology will take over in vivo neural activity imaging. The work is extremely important to the scientific community.”

Late Pleistocene archaic human crania from Xuchang, China

Since 2007, Professor Zhou Liping and doctoral candidate Nian Xiaomei had collaborated with researchers from Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. They studied the late Pleistocene fossils excavated from  Lingjing site in Xuchang County, Henan, China. The Xuchang crania revealed an unknown archaic human. 

The research filled the gap in the evolutionary history from archaic to modern humans and manifested that various Late Pleistocene archaic humans might co-exist in China. This research was published in Science on March 3, 2017 [Science,355(6328):969—972], and selected as one of “China’s Top 10 Advances in Paleontology.”

“China’s Top 10 Scientific Advances” is led by Basic Research Management Center of Ministry of Science and Technology and co-organized by China Basic Science, Science & Technology Review, Bulletin of Chinese Academy of Sciences, China Science Foundation, and Chinese Science Bulletin. This ceremony has been held successfully for 13 years. 

Written by: Wei Yunqi, Langlang
Edited by: Xu Penghang
Source: PKU News (Chinese)