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The Ministry of Science and Technology
People's Republic of China

N0.292 April 20,2002

* China's Breakthrough in Genome Studies

* IT: No.1 Economic Pillar

* Fast Growth of Space Seedlings

* Memorizing Glass

* China's Satellite Tracking Birds Migration

* China's Nuclear Power Station

* Breakthroughs in Sea Water Desalination


China's Breakthrough in Genome Studies

Mr. Chen Zhu, Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Director of National Southern Genome Center expressed recently that being a country with 22% of the world population having numerous independent genomes, China had not only completed its share for 1% sequencing of human genome but also landed breakthrough progresses in the studies of human genome diversity, evolution and genes causing diseases. The past 7 years had witnessed China's construction of a complete national gene collection and preservation system applied with gene research means.  In some large cities of the country such as Beijing and Shanghai, people whose genes have been collected amounted to 5% of the total population in the city and DNA samples were successfully collected from diversified sources.

It is briefed that China's disease causing genome studies have positioned in the world advanced. In addition to their cloning of single gene based diseases causing genes, Chinese scientists have conducted in-depth studies on the structures and functions of the genes related to leukemia and physical tumors. The gene position charts for hypertension, type II diabetes and some cancers have also been completed. In 1997, China completed partial gene sequencing for human 3P chromosome, cloned 1000 and more full length genes and sequenced the genes leading to micro spirillum and staphylococcus.

 Now China is studying functional genome on its own technical platform for gene transcription and analysis.  At present the construction of phase I Chinese SNP catalog has seen completion and become one of the most important part of the National 863 Program.  China's SNP analysis of human No.21 chromosome was also completed.

In the previous year, China has become the first country in the world that has independently worked out a complete rice genome sequencing chart and enjoyed many good news for its studies of diseases related genes. Chinese scientists have found and cloned IHH genes causing A-1 brachydactylia, solving the century old puzzle in the field of genetic studies. Chinese scientists have also successfully cloned the genes causing type II opalescent teeth and launched systematic clinic studies of treating leukemia with arsenic on the basis of treating APL with ATRA gene modulation.

IT: No.1 Economic Pillar

At the 2002 China-Euro Forum on Information Society held in Beijing on April 16, 2002, Mr. Wu Jichuan, Chinese Minister of Information Industry disclosed that the added value of Chinese information industry raised its weight in GDP from 2% in 1995 to 4.2% in 2001 with its growth rate sitting on the top among the nation's industries in terms of both its speed and economic scale. Mr. Wu added that information industry became the number one pillar supporting China's economy with its expression found in the following aspects:

* China's telecommunication operation has been built into a network approaching the internationally advanced level. A fair and orderly market environment has been preliminarily created. At present, China's fixed and mobile telephone networks have been rated the world second largest in terms of their scales while enjoying the world first for its number of mobile telephone subscribers. China has put its CDMA network into operation and realized the digital process of its mobile telecommunication network. China's international telecommunication network has gradually been changed from the satellite based to the optic cable based. Both China's multimedia data service and IP network have seen fast and vigorous development. 

* China's electronic and information products manufacturing and software industry have recorded respective fast annual growth of 20% and 34% on a sustainable basis. In 2001, China's total industrial output value of electronic and information products manufacturing went over RMB 1250 billion, the third place in the world. China's export volume of electronic and information products reached USD 65 billion in the same year, or 24% of the nation's total export volume. China has landed major breakthroughs in the development of optic telecommunication and the third generation mobile technologies and witnessed substantive improvement of its overall level.

* China's economic and social information process has enjoyed remarkably fast progress. As of 2001, China's public network based computer information systems reached 187 in number and public large database 3000 and more.  In the meanwhile, the social possession of computers in the country has amounted to 35 million sets and Internet subscribers 33.7 million with radio and TV broadcasting coverage approaching 94%.

Mr. Wu pointed out that in the next 5 years, China's information industry would expect a growth rate higher than 20% with a doubled market scale against that of 2000 and its weight in GDP rising to 7% or more. By that time, China's fixed and mobile telephone networks will sit in the world first place in terms of their scales with the number of its internet subscribers among the first fews in the world. 


Fast Growth of Space Seedlings

Chinese scientists have been impressed by the fast growth of tube seedlings brought back by China's Divine III spacecraft. These seedlings have recorded a growth rate 5 or even 7 times that of the normal seedlings in a short period of ten days.

It is briefed that these seedlings are China's first seedling payload returned for land applications and diffusions, though China has tried seeds payload during the spacecraft's previous flights. After returning to the earth, these seedlings have shown vigorous growth of 3-5 cm on average, or 5 to 7 times taller than that of the normal seedlings, which demonstrates that the spacecraft has a well-established life supporting system with its temperature, light and air meeting the normal growth requirements of plants.

Being the ones from grape, bramble and orchid, these seedlings will be grown in the greenhouse this Fall.  The grape seedlings are supposed to be shifted to adult grape vines in the next Spring and bear their fruits in the same year. Up to date, China has developed 12 space plants including wheat, rice, tomato, green pepper, cucumber and etc. The so-called space plants are those that have gone through the experimental phase upon the verification check of the state authorities concerned for scale growing. At present there are quite a number of large space vegetable growing bases over the provinces such as Hebei, Gansu, Shandong and Sichuan.

New Hope for More Knowledge of DNA

The Institute of Environment and Engineering for Cold and Arid Regions under the Chinese Academy of Sciences has recently announced one of its major breakthroughs in paleontological DNA molecule studies. The Institute discovered DNA molecules from ancient plants buried in frozen earth over the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau capable of extraction, augmentation and sequencing. The said development has provided important means for obtaining genetic information of paleontological DNA molecules and study of biological evolution, and made scientific interpretation of species evolution possible.

As is briefed by Dr. Lin Qing who involved in the studies, the negative temperature conditions of frozen earth over the Plateau and closed burying environment have well preserved DNA molecules in the plants and prevented matter movement. As a result, they have obtained corresponding genetic information from mammal fossils unearthed from the frozen earth area. Dr. Lin has extracted DNA matter from a plant of 1500 years ago and he discovered from further studies that the DNA has not only contain decomposable DNA of small molecule amount but also the one of large DNA amount, which means that two sequencing can be worked out from the said DNA molecules.  Further analysis has proved that the said plant originated from the same family of today's pondweed (Potamogeton L). In addition to these plants fossils unearthed from the frozen earth area of the Plateau, ancient vertebrate samples collected from the same sources call for further studies.

Memorizing Glass

A red glass of long shine capable of memorizing has recently been worked out by Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which marked a new progress achieved by China in the field of illuminating displaying material.

It is briefed that said glass was made of red illuminating material of long shine with special techniques. When treated with high energy radiation of short wave ultraviolet ray, X-ray and Y-ray, the glass may automatically memorize words or pictures above it. When shone by daylight and other long wave light sources, it may reproduce the words or pictures that it has stored. The said technology is of fine application perspectives in high tech fields and will be able to record an entire encyclopedia book on a nail size glass. In addition, it can intactly preserve dynamic 3-D images for a long time.

China's Satellite Tracking Birds Migration

Not long ago China published its research result on tracking down birds' migration activities with satellite technology. Named as “Biological Studies of Turtledove Protection”, the said project was jointly launched by scientists from both China and the United Arab Emirates in 1997.  It is reported that the  turtledove has been listed under protection in Red Book of Endangered Species published by the United Nations.  The said birds are mainly distributed over Zhun'ger Basin in Xinjiang Autonomous Region. In the past, people had no means available to track down their migration routes, which affected their protection and resulted in continuously decreased population of the birds in the last decade.  

Dr. Yang Weikang, a research fellow of Xinjiang Ecology and Geology Institute involved in the project expressed that to understand their migration activities, the researchers tied up the birds with mini signal transmitters weighing about 30-40 grams, from which relevant data can be collected through satellite based tracking system.  Thanks to their five-year studies with satellite tracking technologies, they have worked out the basic migration routes of turtledove. In mid-September each year turtledove will start off from Zhun'ger Basin (their reproduction base) heading for the direction of west or northwest. When entering the border of Kasakhstan, they will be divided into two groups respectively heading for the southern section of Iran and northern section of UAE as well as for the southern part of Pakistan. The birds will return in the next March to their reproduction base via similar route.


Joint Gene Studies

As is revealed at the International Conference on Human Genome held not long ago, Chinese scientists would soon kick off two collaborative research projects respectively with their US and Japan counterparts in the field of gene studies. It is briefed that Chinese and US scientists will launch the joint studies of SLE (Lupus Crythematosus), the most serious immune disease that may attack every part of human body with higher occurrence among females of Asian origin ( 1: 6 for men to women). Of the Asian origins, Chinese women have suffered the highest occurrence (8 or 10 times higher than that of the white population). The said collaborative study has attracted positive response from the scientists of both countries.  Internationally renowned US expert Mary-Klehr·King  in the field of genetic breast cancer studies has joined the team.  Chen Zhu, Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences said that he hoped the said project would become a role model for international cooperation and render its contribution to the well-being of women population in the world.

The Workshop on Establishing SNP Database for Asia Population recently co-sponsored by Chinese and Japanese scientists has attracted the participation of numerous Asian scholars in the field.  Standing for mononucleotide in English, SNP constitutes the base unit for genes. Both Chinese and Japanese scientists expressed their desire to strengthen the cooperation among Asian scientists through the Workshop and accelerate the establishment of Asian population gene bank.

China's Nuclear Power Station

At zero hour April 15, 2002, No. 1 generation unit of Qinshan No. 2 Nuclear Power Plant, the first home-made nuclear power station for commercial applications, was put into commercial operation. The adjustment and preliminary running results have shown that the said generation unit is of reliable technical and economic performance with its theoretical calculation value matching with the values recorded in actual operation, which has reached the corresponding international level on reactor designing with some of its performance indicators approaching or reaching the criteria of Clients' Requirement Documents prepared by developed countries for future nuclear power development.

It is reported that with an installing capacity for two 600,000 kw pressurized water reactors, the said nuclear island is applied with two looping circuits (300,000 kw for each).  With an investment of RMB 14.8 billion and a construction period for 72 months, the nuclear power station is designed with a life span of 40 years.

Breakthroughs in Sea Water Desalination

Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry under the Chinese Academy of Sciences has recently turned out its film based sea and salt water desalination technique, which demonstrated a breakthrough progress achieved by China in the said field.

It is reported that the said technique produces pure water or highly purified water as well as treats contaminated water through high performance anti-infiltration compound film, which creates a highly efficient approach to addressing water shortage and improving water quality.  The Institute started the research as early as in 1989 and put forward the theoretical scenario that the performance of anti-infiltration compound film was largely dependent on the thickness of such films. As a result, they have placed focus on studying the interface of compound films and created a number of chemical and physical treatment techniques for obtaining desirable interfaces.

It is reported that the said technology has been listed as a major high tech development in China's 10th Five-Year Plan(2001-2005) and will soon witness its industrialization.

Chinese Won Top Environment Award

On April 12, Liu Dongsheng, a research fellow of the Institute of Geology and Geophysics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Prof. Wallas Brook of US Columbia University were conferred with 2002' Tylor Prize for the Environment in Los Angles. Mr. Liu is the first Chinese scientist who was honored with the Prize.

Tylor Prize for the Environment is the top award in the field of environment sciences, or a Noble Prize for the field.  Founded by John Tylor and Alice Tylor in 1973, the fund is currently under the supervision of South Carolina University.

In addition to a bonus of USD 200,000, the winners are also honored with a gold medal. 

The Third World Academician Conference in Beijing

It is reported from the sources of the organizing committee for preparing 2003 the Third World Academician Conference held on April 4, 2002 that under the support of the Chinese government,  the 14th Third World Academician Conference and associated the 9th Academic Conference will be held in China together with the celebration of the 20th anniversary of its foundation from October 14 to 19, 2003.

The 14th Third World Academician Conference will be co-sponsored by Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology, Chinese Academy of Engineering, National Natural Science Foundation and Chinese Association for Science and Technology. The said conference will be chaired by Mr. Lu Yongxiang, President of Chinese Academy of Sciences and Vice President of TWAS. The Conference Secretariat will be physically located at International Cooperation Bureau under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. With a theme for "Sciences and Development", the Conference will expect the participation of 500 to 1000 representatives including academicians of TWAS, representatives from international organizations, governmental officials and invited guests.

TWAS' academicians are elected from renowned scientists of academies, national research councils, universities and research institutions in the third world countries. At present TWAS has an academician population of 583 originated from 75 countries and regions in the world. China has 70 TWAS academicians.

       Comments or inquiries on editorial matters or Newsletter content should be directed to:Mr. Cheng Jiayi, Department of International Cooperation, MOST 15B, Fuxing Road Beijing 100862, PR China  Tel: (8610)68512650 Fax: (8610) 68512594