Seoul National University's Gwanak and Yeongeon Campus's Second Joint Symposium on Biotechnology.
Research faculty from Seoul National University's Yeongeon and Gwanak campuses met on 19 September 2007 for the year's second symposium on the application of new technologies in medicine. The meeting was held at Yeongeon campus?s Clinical Research Institute and hosted by the Bio-MAX institute - a body focused on the interdisciplinary cooperation of Korean researchers in the field of biotechnology. Research presentations were given by professors of different fields of science from both of SNU's main Seoul campuses. The symposium was attended by members of university faculty, students and members of the public.
The collective theme for the symposium was nano-medicine, with most presentations concentrating on the development of tools developed at a nanometer scale to be used in biological sensing and diagnostics, bio-imaging, and drug delivery.
Nanotechnology in general is an applied science that is focused on the production of devices which operate at lower than microscopic levels (1-100 namometers). These devices are designed to interact with individual molecules, most of the time in their original environment and not in a laboratory - out of their natural state. The obvious implications of these properties to medical sciences were made clear by those presenting at the symposium.
Many of the presentations focused on their application inside a living human, all the way down to an individual cell within the body. The consequence of using nanotechnology derived tools is that their delivery requires few or no excisions whatsoever. Delivery methods for nano-devices discussed at the symposium included breathable aerosols, ingestible pills and needle injections.
There were a diverse range of topics covered that spanned from the small to the large.
Professor Hee Chan Kim showed promise with carbon nano-tubes developed in his labs. The tubes, attached to the end of etched tungsten wires, would be used as probing tools. Their extremely small size (tens of atoms wide) enable them to penetrate the membranes of cells without killing them, like a syringe needle, thus allowing signals to be sent through the tube to a detector while the cell is still alive.
Professor Yoon Jeong Park presented the possibility of providing drugs via nano-devices in dental procedures involving tissue engineering.
The problems facing nanotechnology in medicine were also apparent as Professor Myung Haing Cho explained. His aerosol method of delivering genes via a non-viral carrier to laboratory mice was originally targeted at the lungs. The aerosol had to be applied for a maximum time of 30 minutes but could not be done without the genes also reaching the brain through the olfactory receptors in the nose. This provides an obvious obstacle in respect to its use in humans.
Other problems were the toxicity of some nano-materials including quantum dots as was discussed by Professor Yoon-Sik Lee and Professor Keon Wook Kang. Quantum dots have proved novel in labeling specifically desired molecules inside the laboratory for detection. Their use inside the human body would mean accurate location of a desired molecule through non-invasive means, even if the molecules were in very small concentrations. Genes that cause cancer and mutated proteins that cause disease could all be detected at their primary stages for diagnosis if such technology were developed.
The symposium highlighted the challenges faced by researchers in the field of biotechnologies but also revealed the steady progress made by SNU faculty and research labs in their development of new products for medical use. All professors giving presentations emphasized real world commercial factors which would be key to the manufacture of such products should they be effective. These included manufacturing costs, product life span and ease of production.
The professors who gave presentations included:
Prof. Jwa-Min Nam, Dept. of Chemistry
Prof. Hee Chan Kim, Dept. of Biomedical Engineering
Prof. Yoon-Sik Lee, Dept. of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Prof. Keon Wook Kang, Dept. of Nuclear Medicine
Prof. Myung-Haing Cho. Lab. of Toxicology, College of Veterinary Medicine
Prof. Yoon Jeong Park, Dept. of Craniomaxillofacial Reconstructive Science
September 19, 2007
SNU PR Office
SNU NOW / Newsroom