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BSC helps two scientific achievements be listed as 2020 top 10 advances in life sciences

Updated: 2021-01-27

The China Association for Science and Technology (CAST) on January 13 released the country's 10 most significant advances in 2020 in the field of life sciences, highlighting food security and the COVID-19 epidemic.

Chinese scientists have achieved advances in the search for a disease-resistant gene for wheat, developed new cholesterol-lowering drugs, and discovered the mechanism regulating organ aging in humans.

The research entitled "Feeding Induces Cholesterol Biosynthesis via the mTORC1-USP20-HMGCR Axis" and "Caloric Restriction Reprograms the Single-Cell Transcriptional Landscape of Rattus Norvegicus Aging", put forward by the Biophysical Society of China (BSC), were shortlisted for the top 10 advances in life sciences.

Other notable advances included the first 3D structural analysis of the COVID-19 protein, the unveiling of two drug candidates against the virus, and the construction of animal models for COVID-19 treatment.

The selection of the top 10 advances in life sciences has been hosted by the CAST every year since 2015. The event aims to step up research and technological innovation and promote the major scientific and technological achievements in the sector.

Experts of the award-wining projects are invited to publish popular science books and give lectures to reveal the mysteries of life sciences and provide new ideas for bio-economy in a bid to increase the general public's interest in science. 

Compared with those of previous years, this year's selection included more projects recommended by the Alliance of CAST Member Societies and fewer led by academicians. The selections are of outstanding originality and great social significance.

Details of the two projects recommended by the BSC are as follows.

Mechanism of diet-induced cholesterol synthesis and target of new lipid-lowering drugs

Cholesterol is an essential lipid and its synthesis is nutritionally and energetically costly. In mammals, cholesterol biosynthesis increases after feeding and is inhibited under fasting conditions. However, its regulatory mechanisms during fasting-feeding transition remain poorly understood.

A team from the Song Baoliang Laboratory at Wuhan University has made progress in the field. They have found that elevated glucose and insulin levels in the blood after carbohydrate consumption lead to phosphorylation of USP20 protein in the liver, which stabilizes the rate-limiting enzyme HMGCR in regulating cholesterol synthesis.

The finding has shed light on the body's nutrition-sensing mechanism, and proved that USP20 could be a new target for the development of lipid-lowering drugs. The research and its application will benefit the health of all human beings.

Mechanism and regulation of organ aging

To cope with its aging population is a major strategic task for China, and relevant scientific research has been in full swing.

Aging causes a functional decline in tissues throughout the body that may be delayed by caloric restriction (CR). However, the cellular profiles and signatures of aging, including those ameliorated by CR, remain unclear.

The study identifies markers and regulatory targets for senescence of important organs in primates, and reveals the molecular mechanism of novel coronavirus susceptibility in elderly individuals. It also elucidates a new mechanism of caloric restriction to delay aging by regulating immune inflammatory pathways from a systems biology perspective, and suggests that gene therapy based on core rhythm protein overexpression can alleviate osteoarticular degeneration and promote articular cartilage regeneration in aging mice.

The findings have deepened people's understanding of the mechanism of organ aging and laid an important foundation for the establishment of early warning and scientific response strategies for aging and related diseases.

The research was co-organized by Liu Guanghui's group and Qu Jing's group of the Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Zhang Weiqi's group of the Beijing Institute of Genomics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Tang Fuchou's group of Peking University.