Cystic fibrosis links to diabetes

Researchers from Hong Kong, Chengdu, Beijing and Tokyo recently reported a functional link between diabetes and cystic fibrosis.

Cystic fibrosis occurs when mutations in the CFTR gene hamper the function of the Cystic Fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator. This leads to a “tough mucus” secretion in the lungs, and its most acute symptoms are therefore shortness of breath. Indigestion is also a serious symptom, as organs in and around the gastrointestinal tract are affected as well. Without proper management, the respiratory and metabolic consequences of this disease are fatal at young age.

Despite the high frequency of diabetes in adult cystic fibrosis patients, the relationship between the two diseases is still hardly understood. Now, a consortium of Chinese/Japanese institutes has shown that the conductance regulator also regulates glucose-dependent electrical signaling in insulin-producing Beta cells. In other words, defects in the gene that lead to problems in mucus secretion also affect insulin secretion. As most Cystic Fibrosis patients develop insulin deficiency (belonging to the Type I Diabetes category), this finding indeed resolved an important missing link.

Whether the new insights also lead to new treatment options is not clear yet. The investigators have been able to focus at one specific gene mutant. Extrapolating their findings to known >1900 mutations in the Cystic Fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator gene in humans is a daunting task. Nevertheless, in their mice model, they have not witnessed a destruction of pancreatic islets, where the Beta cells are located that produce insulin. If in patients, insulin secretion would also be decreased before islet are destroyed, timely anticipation could potentially provide leads to effective non-invasive treatment options.

A summary of the paper has been published here.

Cystic Fibrosis organs - from Wikipedia

University of Groningen enhances collaboration with BUCT

RuG visit photo2On 8th August, a delegation from University of Groningen (RUG), led by RUG president Prof. Sibrand Poppema, visited the Beijing University of Chemical Technology (BUCT). Prof. Folkert Kuipers, head of Medical School and vice president of University Medical Centre, Ms. Xuefei-Knoester Cao, Senior Policy Advisor and Director of Groningen Confucius Institute joined the delegation to discuss collaboration possibilities with BUCT.

Prof. Chen Dongsheng, the vice president of BUCT extended warm welcome to the delegation. After an introduction on both universities, the possibilities of collaboration on joint degree, research and teaching among faculties of two institutions were discussed. Both universities agreed that there were many potentials and favorable conditions for education and research collaboration in pharmacy, chemistry, chemical engineering, material science and other fields and would further strengthen communication between the two institutions. A Memorandum of Understanding between BUCT and RUG was signed during the meeting.


China announces 9 pilot Smart Cities

Sim City

The National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation (NASG, formerly known as SBSM) yesterday announced a Smart City pilot program with nine cities throughout China.

The nine cities mentioned are Taiyuan, Guangzhou, Xuzhou, Wuxi, Linyi, Zibo, Zhengzhou, Henan, Chongqing, and Huhan. Li Weisen, deputy director of NASG believes that “the first nine cities are expected to finish Smart City construction within about three years”. Every pilot city will reportedly invest more than CNY 36 mln yuan in the program each year.

The Smart City program aims to solve current urban challenges such as traffic congestion and pollution through the use of technology in the design and operation of infrastructure and buildings.

Although the source article (China Daily) does not mention specific details, the fact that the NASG is behind this pilot program leads one to believe that the geospatial information infrastructure will play an important role in the aforementioned cities. This is confirmed in this Chinese language news article on NASG’s website.

Earlier this year NASG signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Dutch Kadaster in which both parties agreed to explore collaboration on geo-information (see earlier post here).

Chinese Government Invested 200 million RMB in Setting up 3D Printing Research Institute

cemB145UBlbtIThe 3D Printing Research Institute of China was launched on August 8th 2013 at Zijin Hightech Zone of the Nanjing city, Jiangsu Province. The Institute is planned to carry out applied 3D printing research and seek for opportunities for its commercialization and industrialization.

The Institute will combine forces of some best Chinese 3D printing research teams from Tsinghua University, Xian Jiaotong University, Northwestern Polytechnic University and Central China University of Science and Technology. Chinese Academy of Engineering Academician Prof. Lu Bingheng will work as the Project Coordinator. Research will focus on 3D printing technology, equipment, materials, applications in various fields including medicine, civil aviation, aerospace technology, automotive industry and biological manufacturing. The aim is to build China’s 3D printing leading force and forester a group of companies around the industry.

The institute will be none-profit public research entity with 200 million RMB investments from the government in its first phase.

Big Data Summit in Beijing

Last Friday (June 14) NOST went to the 2013 Innovation Summit on Big Data, which was held at the Beijing International Convention Center.

When datasets become too large to be stored and analyzed by traditional database-management tools and software, these datasets and the technologies surrounding them are nowadays referred to as ‘Big Data’.

The topic attracted quite a crowd, but it is doubtful that all the presentations were useful for the audience. Somehow it seemed difficult for the speakers to give input on Big Data outside of their own scope of work. Two speakers caught our attention with their speech. The first one was Liang Sheng, deputy director of Beijing Municipal Commission of Economy and Information Technology. He stated that R&D government funding for Big Data companies was available, but that entrepreneurs should be able to show him who would be the customers of their Big Data tools and services. His speech went beyond the usual general opening remarks, and raised the bar for companies that were thinking about applying for government support. Just describing a project as ‘big data’, ‘cloud technology’ or ‘SaaS’ doesn’t necessarily make it eligible.

The second speaker that we want to mention is a data scientist from Alibaba, Tao Yang. Apparently they have patented certain algorithms, partially inspired by how Google ranks pages. This is interesting because the patentability of algorithms is somewhat disputed in China. But besides this observation, it became clear from the content of his presentation that Alibaba has hired some good data scientists and is digging for gold in all the data that Alibaba has acquired over the years. This feeling is reinforced by the fact that they created a data-platform division with about 800 employees (source: Caixin).

During various discussions several entrepreneurs made statements that getting useful data from mobile users was difficult. Incorrectly configured phones and lack of standards were given as reasons.

The event made it clear that Big Data is a hot topic in China, but at the same time many companies seem to struggle with what Big Data really is and what it can mean for their industry. Many companies will not have large enough datasets to make real use of Big Data and are overestimating this technology trend. While others are underestimating the effects of Big Data and the implications it will have for industries and consumers alike.

BigDataBigBuildings The 2013 Innovation Summit on Big Data was co-hosted by China America Innovation Network (CHAIN), Beijing Association for Science & Technology (BAST) and