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[2020/05/11]MOST "Outstanding Research Award" Series 2: Professor Tsai, Institute of Brain Science

Institute of Brain Science Associate Professor Jin-Wu Tsai

 

Institute of Brain Science Professor Jin-Wu Tsai won the “2019 Ministry of Science and Technology Outstanding Research Award” with his research in the area of Neurology. Professor Tsai has published more than twenty important papers in the past five years that have investigated pathogenesis during neurodevelopment. In Taiwan, there are approximately 700,000 patients with brain developmental disorders. These patients face challenges due to their mental, physical, and mental disabilities when they try to live independently and work.

 

Based on their experience while studying the development of the brain cortex, Professor Tsai’s team developed the first gene screening method that combined transposition with in utero electroporation and allowed the induction of mutations in neural stem cells. Using this method, the screening for genes that are important during neuronal development was possible and the team has identified many new genes that are involved in brain development and neural diseases. In addition, by cooperating with the National Yang-Ming University Department of Life Science and Institute of Genome Sciences, and the epilepsy surgery team of Taipei Veterans General Hospital, the team has been able to carry out clinical verification of these genes. With “Next Generation Sequencing,” the team was able to verify that a mutated gene found in mice is also present in patients with focal corticaldysplsia and epilepsy.

 

Tsai has been investigating other neural stem cell related developmental lesions and, to help with this, the Yang-Ming group has been cooperating with a group of French Scientists to discover the mechanism behind cerebellar malignant tumors. The team chose medulloblastoma, the most common deadly malignant childhood tumor, as their target. They used cerebellar electroporation and successfully tracked the development of cerebellar stem cells. Under the microscope, they saw the cancerization of neural stem cells and were able to clearly pinpoint this important event. Transcription factor Atoh1 has been shown to control the division of neural stem cells by modulating primary cilium. Furthermore, the presence of a defect in primary cilium is able to cause abnormal brain development and it is possible that targeting the gene Gli2 may be a useful approach to treatment. This research has become an important milestone in the treatment of brain tumors and their relationship with the loss of primary cilium.

 

This is one of the few interdisciplinary research teams in Taiwan that is involved in both basic research and clinical verification. In the future, gene screening will be able to quickly identify the presence of the mutated genes that cause epilepsy and brain tumors, as well as those that cause diseases involving brain development. This will allow precision medicine to be applied to the treatment of these diseases. It will also assist with genetic counseling, which, in turn, will have a revolutionary and long term impact on neural development related diseases.

 

Professor Tsai (second to the right) and French scientists who have cooperated to solve the mechanism behind cerebellar malignant tumors

 

Professor Tsai has won many awards over the last few years. Last year, he received the “Tien Te Lee Biomedical Foundation Medical Science and Technology Award,” the “2019 Academia Sinica Research Award for Junior Research Investigators,” and the “Far Eastern Y. Z. Hsu Scientific Paper Award.” Professor Tsai’s teaching has also been affirmed by teachers and students because he has won the NYMU “Outstanding Teaching Award, ” and “Excellent Teaching Award” several times and has also won the "Excellent Teacher of Online Teaching Evaluation for Medical Students" for a consecutive six years.

 

Professor Tsai remarked that he is grateful to the Ministry of Science and Technology and the judges for their affirmation of the research team. He knows that the award does not just give credit to a single person, but also shows support for the entire team and their collaborators. He thanked his research team, the members of his laboratory, the TVGH epilepsy surgery team, the NYMU Institute of Genome Sciences, the Institut Curie in France and the research group's many other collaborators for their support, efforts and trust. Together they have been able to persist to the goal and achieve many fruitful results.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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