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[2013/07/29]Kang-Yang Jih Receives the First Prize of the Foundation of Taiwan Medical Development Awards for Outstanding Writings

Kang-Yang Jih Receives the First Prize of the Foundation of Taiwan Medical Development Awards for Outstanding Writings

[2013/07/29]

Kang-Yang Jih Receives the First Prize of the Foundation of Taiwan Medical Development Awards for Outstanding Writings

Kang-Yang Jih, a 5th year medical student, was awarded the first prize of the Foundation of Taiwan Medical Development Awards for Outstanding Writings. He was supervised by Dr. Tzyh-Chang Hwang, Professor of Physiology at the University of Missouri-Columbia. (Dr. Hwang has been offering graduate-level summer courses for the physician/scientist program at NYMU since 2005.) Kang-Yang's research article "Vx-770 potentiates CFTR function by promoting decoupling between the gating cycle and ATP hydrolysis cycle", now published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, USA, was highly valued by the judges and was hence given the highest honor.

Kang-Yang's research during his tenure in Dr. Hwang's lab is focused on investigating the molecular mechanism controlling the activity of a chloride channel named CFTR. CFTR is composed of five domains, namely two Transmembrane Domains (TMDs) that form a "tunnel" for ions to travel through the plasma membrane, two Nucleotide-binding Domains (NBDs) that function as an engine that drives the opening and closing (gating) cycle of CFTR by harvesting the free energy from ATP hydrolysis, and an R domain that regulates channel activity via protein kinas A-dependent phosphorylation. Malfunction of CFTR causes the most common lethal genetic disease cystic fibrosis (CF) in the Caucasian population. For decades, CF has been treated symptomatically as there are no therapeutical strategies directly targeting the root of the disease. In 2012, however, FDA approved VX-770 (Kalydeco), a drug discovered via high-throughput screening assays, to treat CF patients carrying the G551D mutation. VX-770 is the first drug that targets the fundamental cause of CF: the broken CFTR chloride channel.

Clinical studies have showed that VX-770 improves the symptoms of CF patients likely because of a lengthening of the channel open time of CFTR, but the detail mechanism was unclear until Kang-Yang's diligent studies. His experimental data indicate that, contrary to conventional thoughts, there is a time delay in signal transduction from the NBDs to the TMDs. VX-770 prolongs the channel open time by extending such delay in signal transduction. This novel observation not only explained how VX-770 attains its therapeutic effect by modulating the gating mechanism of CFTR but also brought insights into CFTR's functional mechanism. More important, this finding leads us to a new direction of therapeutic development for future CF treatments.

Kang-Yang is grateful to his advisor Dr. Hwang for his enthusiastic support and mentoring. He also pointed out that although the topic of his research does not fall into a popular field that attracts much attention in Taiwan, he believes that the most important element for any success in research is curiosity. Curiosity-driven scientific research is all about finding an interesting topic that spawns endless enthusiasm and hard work as many revolutionary discoveries in the history of medicine were made this way. He held that this acclaimed recognition of his work not only honors himself and Dr. Hwang, but also exemplifies the success of the Physician/Scientist Program at NYMU.

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Dr. Kang-Yang Jih

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Prof. Tzyh-Chang Hwang(left) and Dr. Kang-Yang Jih



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