NTU: NTU and KU hosts Symposium on AI & Smart Medicine

The NTU-KU Joint Symposium on Digital Health, co-hosted by National Taiwan University (NTU) and Kyoto University (KU), was held on December 16, 2020. Accommodating both face-to-face and virtual participation, the Symposium explored issues in “AI & Smart Medicine for Digital Health.” The event was co-organized by National Taiwan University-Industry Liaison Office, Medical and Health Care, NTU SPARK, and sponsored by Quanta Computer.

The Symposium included keynote lectures and sessions held by NTU and KU professors as well as experts from industry and academia. Besides physical posters, e-posters with recordings were accessible online for viewers who were not present. This feature allowed the virtual platform to be more interactive and engaging. It also facilitated discussion between industry and university partners.

NTU President Chung-Ming Kuan welcomed the Symposium participants with his opening remarks. He commended the friendship between NTU and KU, affirming that the two universities had signed over 30 cooperation agreements, co-organized countless academic projects and exchanges, and explored opportunities for research collaboration in 14 fields. He also noted the official signing of an MOU on strategic partnership in August 2010, which strengthened the relationship between NTU and KU. President Kuan expressed the hope that the symposium would spark discussions on AI technology and smart healthcare as well as promote friendship between the two universities. KU President Nagahiro Minato addressed the Symposium via video stream. He stressed the value of the strategic partnership between NTU and KU and expressed his conviction that, by joining hands, universities can increase their international contributions.

In his speech, Vice President for Research and Development & ILO, Pai-Chi Li, stated that the Internet had revolutionized healthcare, adding that the greatest challenge in future healthcare and AI would be how to manage data and build open platforms to serve different users.

Research teams showcasing and demonstrating their research results.
Barry Lam, Chairman of Quanta Computer, asserted that, as 4G had become a mature form of connectivity, the future trend would be 5G and 6G. 5G connectivity would foster the development of IoT in daily life, while the realization of 6G would facilitate smart connectivity and allow AI to perform operations in hospitals. In concluding, he stressed that, as the healthcare industry integrates automation and data analytics with AI computing, humankind would move one step closer to digital and smart healthcare.

During the Symposium, experts exchanged information and views on how digitalization could impact clinical practice, the healthcare system, assisted diagnosis, psychological diseases, occupational hazards, and an aging population. The research team of the Global Industry Platform of NTU System also presented their research results at the event.

NTU and KYUTECH hosts Online International Study Group
NTU’s Center for Teaching and Learning Development met the challenges of COVID-19 to co-host the “International Study Group Project” with Kyushu Institute of Technology (KYUTECH). The project was developed to improve the students’ understanding of different cultures, deepen their learning, and expand their knowledge by peer exchanges and communication. The project was aimed to help students from different places learn from each other and develop communication and leadership skills by engaging in friendly and fruitful activities together.

In September 2020, the participating students started getting to know each other online. After several conversations and online icebreaker activities, they participated in a virtual end-of-semester gathering on December 12, 2020. The activity included a human library, virtual tours around the two campuses, and discussions on how COVID-19 had affected life on campus and the world.

The activity commenced with a human library: every student took part in the living library by sharing their personal stories and ideas. Students from NTU and KYUTECH were divided into groups to listen to different stories, and create dialogues. NTU student Wen-Yi Lin shared a memorable story about her internship experience in Malawi and KYUTECH student Jugo Mizota spoke about animation and nuclear energy. He sparked a heated debate in his group when he asked the others about their views on the legality of nuclear weapons. In response to COVID-19, the students hosted online campus tours and navigated their peers around their respective campuses. The NTU students walked around their campus, strolling along the broad Royal Palm Boulevard and Mahogany Boulevard, viewing the majestic Main Library, and circling the glimmering Drunken Moon Lake. On the other side of the screen, the KYUTECH students introduced their campus buildings using slides and then stepped outside the room to show the beautiful blooming flowers on their campus. By chance, a cosplay activity was held on NTU campus just when the virtual tour was underway. In contrast to the empty KYUTECH campus, NTU campus was filled with passionate, exquisitely dressed cosplayers.

Students discussing issues via video-chat.
Students concluded the event by discussing the theme “2020, A Year of Change.” Some students discussed the impact and challenges of COVID-19, others addressed the rising suicide rate and suggested preventive measures, while others talked about mental health issues, such as depression. Finally, the students held a vote for the best storyteller and presenter, and the winners received awards from the Center for Teaching and Learning and Development.

Research Achievements
Unraveling the Mystery of Genetic Diversity
Genetic diversity is the basis of evolutionary change. In the transmission of genes, chromosomes from two sides pair to exchange genetic material and create genetic diversity. DMC1 protein is the key enzyme catalyzing this DNA exchange reaction. Interestingly, although the father and mother’s chromosomal DNA sequences are similar, they are not identical. How can DMC1 such tolerate imperfection and what is the mechanism behind such a process? A team of researchers from NTU and Academia Sinica conducted biochemical and biophysical experiments utilizing a cutting-edge cryo-electron microscopy facility, in order to examine how the unique structure of DMC1 proteins accommodate imperfect pairing. Their research results were published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications in January 2021.

To examine the molecular mechanism of DMC1’s mismatch tolerability, the research team purified high-quality DMC1 protein and observed the DMC1-DNA complex with cryo-electron microscopy. After “seeing” the molecular details of the interaction between DMC1 and DNA, the team hypothesized that DMC1 creates larger spaces to accommodate mismatch DNA pairing. By narrowing the space via site-direct mutagenesis and observing with cryoEM and MD simulation, the team demonstrated that the size of the space is highly correlated with the tolerance of DNA mismatching.

The “accurate” execution of enzymes is key to the continuation of life; however, it is the “inaccurate” exchange of DNA sequence that leads to genetic diversity. The team’s discovery perfectly demonstrated how enzymes control “accuracy” via their molecular structure and how DMC1 mutation may be reason behind the infertility and disease caused by uneven chromosome segregation.

NTU has long been dedicated to the study of genome integrity. This research collaboration with Academia Sinica not only deepened the research on this topic but also caught the attention of the international community. The team’s remarkable speed of solving five protein-DNA complexes in one year was largely due to the powerful tool, CryoEM, made available by the Academia Sinica CryoEM Facility.

A schematic model showing how “a loose gate and a tight backbone support” structure contribute to the mismatch tolerance of DMC1, whereas“a tight gate and a loose backbone support” structure contribute to the high fidelity of RAD51.
The co-authors of the research article were Shih-Chi Luo of Academia Sinica’s Institute of Biological Chemistry and Hsin-Yi Yeh of NTU’s Institute of Biochemical Sciences. The research team included Ming-Daw Tsai and Meng-Chiao Ho of Academia Sinica’s Institute of Biological Chemistry; Hung-Wen Li of NTU’s Department of Chemistry; and Peter Chi of NTU’s Institute of Biochemical Sciences. The research was supported by NTU, the Ministry of Science and Technology, Academia Sinica, and the Taiwan Protein Project.

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