2024 UNESCO International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences goes to three scientists from China, Egypt and Greece

http://en.people.cn/n3/2024/0425/c90000-20161248.html https://www.unesco.org/en/prizes/equatorial-guinea Qiao Jie of China, Mohamed Ali Farag of Egypt, and Triantafyllos Stylianopoulos of Greece received the awards for outstanding contributions to improving the quality of human life through scientific research at a ceremony held in Addis Ababa on the sidelines of the 10th Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development. The prize is funded by Equatorial Guinea and is given annually to a maximum of three laureates. This year’s winners received a monetary award of 350,000 U.S. dollars, divided equally among them. It was handed over by Qu Xing, UNESCO deputy director-general. Qiao Jie is a specialist in reproductive medicine and won the prize for helping couples conceive healthy babies and improving reproductive health, especially for women. She studied the detailed genetic processes and developed innovative techniques for preimplantation genetic diagnosis, a procedure that can dramatically improve the success rate of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and help avoid the transmission of genetic diseases through IVF. Her most revolutionary contribution to improving women’s reproductive health has been her discovery of microbiomes that cure reproductive disorders among females. Farag is a specialist in metabolomics and one of the pioneers in this field in Africa. He has developed a metabolomic platform, which is the first of its kind in Africa. His discovery has enabled scientists to observe volatile compounds emitted by microbes for both medical and agricultural applications and has already aided in identifying novel biocontrol agents from soil bacteria that can boost plant growth. Stylianopoulos is spearheading research into cancer therapies. He won the prize for his research that leveraged the principles of biomechanics, blending physics and biology to improve the delivery and efficacy of cancer treatments for patients who face the grim prognosis of solid tumors.

Dengue protection by changing the mosquito’s microbiome?

https://english.news.cn/20240419/c1645294c8f84729a9a1b0bd6a983f40/c.html https://www.science.org/content/article/bacteria-found-mosquito-guts-could-help-scientists-fight-dengue-zika Chinese scientists have developed a new strategy to prevent mosquito-borne diseases by changing insects’ gut microbes, as an alternative to experiments that see genetically-modified mosquitoes released in Florida. Mosquito-borne viruses, such as dengue and Zika, cause several potentially fatal human viral infections. Dengue viruses infect approximately 390 million each year globally. In China, an epidemic survey over the past decade documented frequent dengue outbreaks in Xishuangbanna and Lincang, both in southwest China’s Yunnan Province. But few have been reported in neighboring cities of Wenshan and Pu’er. The very different prevalence stimulated the curiosity of researchers from Tsinghua University and Yunnan Academy of Animal Science and Veterinary Sciences. Investigation on thousands of blood-sucking female mosquitoes revealed that mosquitoes from the two different habitats carry different symbiotic bacteria in their guts, the first tissue organ usually infected by viruses. Among the 55 strains isolated, a kind of bacterium called Rosenbergiella_YN46 was abundant in mosquito guts in Wenshan and Pu’er, but not in Xishuangbanna and Lincang. Then, the researchers colonized the strain in the intestines of two common disease-transmitting mosquitoes — Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti. Those mosquitoes did become less likely to be infected with dengue and Zika via blood bites, according to the study. Further analysis suggested that glucose oxidase secreted by the bacteria can convert glucose into gluconic acid and rapidly acidifies the intestines of blood-sucking mosquitoes, rapidly neutralising the mosquito-borne viruses in acid environment. As a consequence, the team tried to breed “good mosquitoes” that do not transmit viruses, by adding Rosenbergiella_YN46 bacteria to the water where mosquitoes eggs were laid and hatched. Encouragingly, the intestinal colonization proved a success at a site in Mengla County of Xishuangbanna and the colony persistently resided in the guts of Aedes mosquitoes. The researchers also proposed another potential intervention strategy — the use of plants. Mosquito’s gut microbes in the wild are either derived from microbes in breeding waters, or in the sap and nectar of plants. They collected a large number of plant samples in Wenshan, where the bacterium was isolated, in order to find plants that are enriched with this bacterium. Transplanting and cultivating this plant to the infected area might intervene in the ability of mosquitoes to carry and transmit the virus. If those plants were shrub or herbaceous plants, they could even be grown in backyards or residential compounds. This study has shown that the use of bacteria-colonized field mosquitoes could offer a feasible biocontrol strategy for reducing virus transmission and prevalence in nature.

CAS Institute of Microbiology develops “turboPETase” for PET depolymerisation

https://www.cas.cn/syky/202402/t20240227_5006277.shtml https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-024-45662-9 The research team of Wu Bian at the CAS Institute of Microbiology has redesigned a cutinase for nearly complete PET depolymerization at industrially relevant high-solids loading. In recent years, enzymatic depolymerization for PET recycling has become the primary option for solving the PET plastic pollution crisis in the plastics circular economy. in 2020, a French team achieved 90% depolymerization and recycling of PET plastics on an industrial scale using a bio-enzymatic method. However, the high-temperature operating conditions resulted in the formation of non-degradable, highly crystalline waste from the residual 10% PET, hindering its application in real-world industrial scenarios and becoming a challenge in the plastics circular economy. The CAS team used an artificial intelligence strategy to redesign PET hydrolases by intelligently shaping BhrPETase, a hydrolase from the bacterium HR29. The redesigned variant, TurboPETase, achieved complete depolymerization of PET waste with high substrate loadings within 8 h. The depolymerization efficiency exceeded that of the efficient PET depolymerization enzymes currently reported internationally, demonstrating the potential of TurboPETase in PET waste recycling. Kinetic and structural analyses suggest that the improved depolymerization performance may be attributed to a more flexible PET binding groove, highlighting the importance of improving polymer interactions at specific attack sites, and providing a new scenario to further promote the industrialization of other polyester-based biodegradation.

Proton-exchange membrane in acid medium permits sustainable electrochemical conversion of CO2 to formic acid

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-023-06917-5 https://news.sciencenet.cn/htmlnews/2024/2/517295.shtm A Chinese-New Zealand team has developed a proton-exchange membrane system that reduces CO2 to formic acid at a catalyst that is derived from waste lead–acid batteries and in which a lattice carbon activation mechanism contributes. When coupling CO2 reduction with hydrogen oxidation, formic acid is produced with over 93% Faradaic efficiency. The system is compatible with start-up/shut-down processes, achieves nearly 91% single-pass conversion efficiency for CO2 at a current density of 600 mA cm−2 and cell voltage of 2.2 V and is shown to operate continuously for more than 5,200 h.

Cell-wall based leaching of Ce(III)

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S138589472304799X?via%3Dihub https://www.cas.cn/syky/202312/t20231205_4990265.shtml Researchers at the CAS QIBEBT in Qingdao have developed a new type of biomimetic adsorbent material for the green and efficient adsorption of low-concentration rare earth ions from leach tailings in rare earth mining areas based on the enrichment motifs of the rare earth super-enriched plants- In this work, a novel cellulose/pectin composite aerogel adsorbent based on ultra-enriched plant cell walls for effective rare earth enrichment was prepared for the recovery of rare earth elements in leach tailings, and the main components of the resulting adsorbent were systematically analyzed using SEM, FTIR, XRD and contact angle measurement instrument. The results showed that the PCA adsorbent surface has an excellent structural basis in the field of adsorption of rare earth ions with abundant active adsorption groups, low crystallinity and good hydrophilic properties. The thermodynamic study showed that the adsorption process conformed to the Langmuir model, and the theoretical maximum adsorption capacity reached 337 mg/g. The kinetic study showed that the adsorption process conformed to the quasi-secondary kinetic model, and the adsorption process was chemisorption. The adsorbent still had good adsorption performance after five adsorption-desorption cycles. From the FTIR and XPS spectral analysis, it is clear that the adsorption mechanism of PCA for rare earth ions is mainly realized by electrostatic interaction, ion exchange with -COOH and chelation with C-NH2. The novel composite aerogel PCA based on cell wall synthesis has potential application prospects as a green and efficient adsorbent with good regeneration performance.

China’s PubScholar starts with 190 million documents, PubMed holds 36 million

On Nov. 1, 2023, the National Science Library and the Knowledge Serice Platform of the Chinese Academy of Sciences has released PubScholar, a public information database modelled after PubMed of the USA. https://pubscholar.cn It operates in Chinese language and aims to build scholarly platform for the public good, to provide high-quality public academic resources for China’s science and technology community and society as a whole and allows for search and discovery of academic resources. Terms or names can also be entered in English language, but the frame for searches and advanced searches is in Chinese only. At present, the amount of searchable resources is about 190 million articles, of which full-text resources are about 80 million articles, including journal articles, dissertations, preprints, patent documents, field newsletters, newsletters, scientific data and books and monographs. For comparison: US-based PubMed, open since 1996, allows access to some 36 million citations. In terms of functionality, the Public Academic Platform provides six major functions: integrated search and discovery of public academic resources, multi-channel navigation of accessible full-text resources, integration of KDDI’s translation engine, proactive delivery of high-value literature in the field, organization and management of personalized academic resources, and exchange and sharing of open academic resources.

Shenzhen team develops Corynebacterium engineering chassis and converts biomass to lycopene

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41589-023-01489-x https://english.cas.cn/newsroom/research_news/life/202307/t20230731_334150.shtml A research team from the Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology (SIAT) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences has developed an integrated technological workflow for engineered living materials ELMs by synergistically combining tools from bioinformatics, structural biology, and synthetic biology. The workflow enables the exploration, comprehension, and utilization of bacterial biopolymers of interest and suitable biopolymer-producing bacteria as structural building blocks, and then hosts for systematic and sequential design of living materials. They developed a technological workflow for facilitating ELMs design by rationally integrating bioinformatics, structural biology and synthetic biology technologies. With a bioinformatics software, termed Bacteria Biopolymer Sniffer (BBSniffer), they succeeded in the fast mining of biopolymers and biopolymer-producing bacteria of interest. As a proof-of-principle study, using existing pathogenic pilus as input, they identified the covalently linked pili (CLP) biosynthetic gene cluster in the industrial workhorse Corynebacterium glutamicum. Genetic manipulation and structural characterization revealed the molecular mechanism of the CLP assembly, ultimately enabling a type of programmable pili for ELM design. Finally, engineering of the CLP-enabled living materials allowed them to transform cellulosic biomass into lycopene by coupling the extracellular and intracellular bioconversion ability.

MIIT: China leads the world in industrial robot production and installations

https://www.recordchina.co.jp/b919111-s6-c20-d0189.html According to an address of Xin Guobin, deputy director of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MII), at the opening ceremony of the 2023 World Robot Games in Beijing, China robot industry sales in 2022 were more than 170 billion yuan (1 yuan = approx. 20 yen), and industrial robot installations accounted for more than 50% of the world’s total. Driven by the construction of a manufacturing powerhouse and Digital China, China’s robotics industry in 2022 has produced industrial robots exceeding 443,000 sets, up 20% from the previous year. Robot density in the manufacturing industry reached 392 robots per 10,000 workers. Service and specialized robots are being applied on a large scale in areas such as logistics, medicine, and construction, and are also playing an important role in space exploration, emergency rescue, and public safety.

New Chinese high-speed train targets 1,000 km/h

http://j.people.com.cn/n3/2023/0424/c95952-20010257.html The “New High-Speed Train” theme science and education exhibition held by the Aerospace Science and Technology Group opened in Beijing on April 23. According to what was revealed at the exhibition, there has been a new development in the “new high-speed train” that China is developing. China’s first full-scale superconducting running test has recently been carried out, and the train is expected to reach a speed of 1,000 km/h in the future. The “new high-speed train” is expected to reach a speed of 1,000 km/h in the future, CCTV News reported. The “new high-speed train” is a transportation system that combines magnetic levitation technology and low-vacuum technology to achieve ultra-high speed. The research team has completed a full-scale test line for the “new high-speed train” in Datong City, Shanxi Province, and recently conducted the first full-scale superconducting running test. The “new high-speed train” will be used in the future to transport traffic between very large cities at speeds of up to 1,000 km/h. Experts say that the train will be able to reach speeds of up to 1,000 km/h. Experts say that this speed is not easy to achieve and must be driven step by step through a large number of tests. The test team has already conducted an ultra-high-speed magnetic levitation and electromagnetic propulsion test under non-vacuum conditions, reaching a speed of 623 km/h.

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