|Title||IBS Launches its First Center in the Field of Basic Medical Sciences|
|Embargo date||2015-07-16 11:22||Hits||3521|
IBS Launches its First Center
in the Field of Basic Medical Sciences
KAIST Professor Gou Young Koh begins his research in July
as a director of the IBS Center for Vascular Research.
“We will identify novel key regulators that control the formation, differentiation and regeneration of blood vessels and lymphatic vessels, and unveil their mechanisms. Through this research, we will make a significant breakthrough in treating intractable vascular diseases such as tumors and ischemic heart diseases.”
Gou Young Koh, a distinguished professor from the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), has been selected as a director at the Institute for Basic Science (IBS). Director Koh, a world-renowned pioneer in the field of Vascular Biology, begins his research from July 1 as a director of the Center for Vascular Research.
His Center is IBS’ first Center launched in the field of Basic Medical Sciences. Director Koh, who has devoted himself to this field for the past 25 years, said, “I feel honored and responsible at the same time as a basic medical scientist. I hope to motivate junior scientists in this field to further undertake their research.” He went on, “Back in the 1980s, my professor said that by conducting research in Basic Medical Sciences, we can identify fundamental causes of diseases and develop new therapeutic strategies. This will eventually help us treat patients with intractable diseases. He was a huge inspiration to me, and that is primarily the reason that I decided on pursuing a career in this field.” Director Koh received the 17th Wunsch Medical Award from the Korean Academy of Medical Sciences and Boehringer Ingelheim Korea in 2007, almost a decade after Kyung Woo Cho, his professor at Chonbuk National University Medical School, received the same award.
Providing a new avenue for developing tumor therapies
Director Koh is a highly-established scientist in the field of Vascular Biology. He has been thrust into the global spotlight for identifying angiogenesis-promoting proteins and their mechanisms. Director Koh has, in particular, conducted research and development on COMP-Ang1, an angiogenesis-promoting protein, and shared the results and materials with researchers in other countries. As a result, his innovative research has become widely known, and his research group has been recognized globally for pioneering research in the field of angiogenesis. Currently, Director Koh is serving as a member of the editorial board of Blood, one of the world’s most prestigious journals in the field of Hematology. He has recently joined the editorial board of Cancer Research, one of the most distinguished cancer journals in the world.
Director Koh has conducted intensive research on tumor angiogenesis. He and his research group developed a double anti-angiogenic protein (DAPP), which can simultaneously bind vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF-A) and angiopoietin-2 (Ang2), blocking their actions. They also identified that a RhoJ protein is highly expressed in tumor vessels and plays a critical role in tumor angiogenesis and vessel integrity.
For its growth, a tumor stimulates blood vessel formation to obtain sufficient oxygen and nutrients. These new vessels are used to feed tumor cells with nutrients and also to spread them around the body. Recently, a vascular targeting therapy has emerged as a popular anticancer therapeutic option. Unlike traditional therapies, which directly attack tumor cells, this new therapy is targeting tumor vessels. It cuts off pathways that deliver nutrients and spread tumor cells, thus starving the cells to death or inhibiting metastasis. Director Koh has unveiled the roles of essential proteins in tumor angiogenesis and vessel integrity, thereby paving the way for developing new therapeutic options. He received the 2012 Asan Medical Award from the Asan Foundation in recognition of his achievement in this field.
Director Koh explained in more detail why blood vessels are important in the therapeutic treatment. “Each organ undergoes different processes of angiogenesis, and each blood vessel has different conditions as they are involved in different types of homeostasis or diseases such as tumors and infections. We can provide a clue for efficient vascular regeneration, as well as therapeutic strategies for vascular diseases by conducting research on the generation, differentiation, integrity and modulation of different blood vessels depending on each organ homeostasis or disease.”
He also shows interest in exploring the roles of lymphatic vessels and pericytes. Blood vessels and lymphatic vessels are so-called water and sewer pipes in the human body. Director Koh said, “There are approximately 600 lymph nodes in the human body. Pathogenic viruses and bacteria, immune cells, and tumor cells travel through lymphatic vessels scattered throughout the body and arrive at lymph nodes, leading to immune responses.” He added, “I am planning to conduct research focused on the roles of lymphatic vessels when immune cells interact with antigens in lymph nodes.”
The role of pericytes is another topic to be explored. Pericytes wrap around endothelial cells in capillaries where the exchange of gases, nutrients and waste takes place. Recent findings indicate that they contribute to the differentiation and integrity of blood vessels by secreting special kinds of molecular substances.
Conducting extensive research on cardiac stem cells
The Center for Vascular Research plans to conduct cardiovascular research as well. Director Koh explained, “The pathogenic role of blood vessels is critical in cardiovascular diseases. Even when implanting myocardial stem cells, angiogenesis must take place simultaneously,” emphasizing that the heart is a part of blood vessels.
When he was a research associate at Krannert Institute of Cardiology, Indiana University, Director Koh carried out a successful trial of cardiac cell implantation for cardiac regeneration, which was the first time it had been done in the world. These series of successful implantations of cardiac stem cells and muscle cells has laid the foundation for myocardial regeneration research using stem cells for the past 20 years. Myocardial regeneration research using stem cells is a highly competitive global field. Director Koh said, “In the next 10 years, I will conduct basic research to generate cardiac stem cells appropriate for myocardial regeneration and identify their characteristics, and at the same time I will undertake applied research to develop efficient implantation methods.”
Director Koh emphasized that research in Basic Medical Sciences can provide useful insights for developing therapeutic approaches for sepsis, which is caused by serious infections with new viruses that pose a threat to national health. He said, “Respiratory diseases such as MERS lead to severe damages in lung cells and immune cells. Therefore, if patients with respiratory insufficiency suffer from sepsis, they have a comparatively high mortality rate. In such cases, simultaneous drug treatment is effective. By administering drugs to protect vascular endothelial cells, which account for one third of the lung cells, the mortality rate of sepsis is expected to drastically decrease. Recently, we have developed an antibody for protecting vascular endothelial cells from pathogen-induced damages through collaborative research.”
Congratulating Director Koh on the establishment of his new Center, IBS President Doochul Kim said, “I hope that Director Koh will conduct world-leading research and make groundbreaking discoveries to bring a paradigm shift in therapeutic strategies.” With the launch of the Center for Vascular Research, IBS now has a total of 25 Centers. In the second half of this year, the Center for Nanomedicine led by Director Jinwoo Cheon will be established.
* IBS Director Gou Young Koh (Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering, KAIST) graduated from Chonbuk National University Medical School and earned his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from the same school. He worked as a research fellow at the Department of Physiology, Cornell University Medical College, and as a research associate at Krannert Institute of Cardiology, Indiana University.
After his return to Korea, he served as an assistant professor and associate professor at the Department of Physiology, Chonbuk National University Medical School, and as an associate professor at the Department of Life Sciences, Pohang University of Science and Technology. He also worked as a professor at the Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering, KAIST and, in 2011, he was appointed as a distinguished professor at KAIST. Throughout his research career, he has published around 230 papers in highly distinguished SCI journals. He has achieved outstanding research outcomes in the field of Vascular Biology, with some of them featuring as cover stories on scientific journals.
In 2012, he received the Asan Medical Award in recognition of identifying key factors in tumor growth and metastasis and developing an inhibitor to block such actions. In addition, he has also received other prestigious awards. In 2007, he received the Wunsch Medical Award. That was followed by the 2010 KAISTian of the Year Award and in 2011 he received the Kyung-Ahm Prize. From 2011, Director Koh has been serving as a member of the editorial board of Blood, one of the world’s most distinguished journals in the field of Hematology published by the American Society of Hematology. Recently, he has joined the editorial board of Cancer Research, one of the major cancer journals published by the American Association for Cancer Research. He is also currently serving as an associate editor of Molecular Cancer and a member of the editorial board of Experimental & Molecular Medicine. Previous to this, he was also a member of the editorial board of Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.
[Attachment] Profile and Research Plan
IBS Director Gou Young Koh