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The National Key R&D Program of China Initiated by Professor Renjie Chai was Started

The kick-off meeting for the national key R&D program "Research on Auditory Function Restoration Through the Regeneration of Hair Cells and Auditory Neurons", initiated by Renjie Chai (Professor of Southeast University) and jointly conducted by Tongji University, Fudan University and Bioland Lab, as well as the demonstration meeting on corresponding implementation plans, was successfully held in Nanjing, China, on March 24.

The experts directing the program, program leaders, subject facilitators, subject key members and the like attended the meeting, including Professor Jianhong Zhu (Chief Physician of Neurosurgery Department in Huashan Hospital, Fudan University), Professor Fenglin Cao (Deputy Director of the Institute for Stem Cell and Reproductive Medicine at Harbin Medical University, and Distinguished Professor of Harbin Medical University/Shenzhen University), Professor Chen Zhang (Vice President of Capital Medical University, Dean of School of Basic Medical Sciences of Capital Medical University, and Executive Vice President of Graduate School of Capital Medical University), Professor Jianwei Jiao (Researcher of the Institute of Zoology of Chinese Academy of Sciences), Professor Xia Gao (Head of Department of Otorhinolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery of Nanjing Drum Tower Hospital, and Director of the Institute for Otorhinolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery), and Professor Yan Liu (Second-class Professor and Doctoral Supervisor of Nanjing Medical University). Besides, Professor Huawei Li, President of the Research Institute of Otolaryngology, Eye & ENT Hospital of Fudan University, attended the demonstration meeting online. The meetings were presided over by Wei Liu, Director of the Office of High Technology and Social Development, Office of Science, Southeast University.

Professor Gaojun Teng, Academician of Chinese Academy of Sciences and President of Zhongda Hospital, Southeast University, delivered a speech on behalf of the program undertaking unit. He first thanked the leaders and experts attending the meetings for their long-term support to the program team and their care and help to the Zhongda Hospital, Southeast University. He also indicated that the Hospital would attach full importance to and root for the program, give full play to the resource advantages of Southeast University's medical and engineering interdisciplinary integration innovation platform, and assist in the basic R&D plus the output and transformation of innovative achievements on restoration of damaged hearing through the regeneration of functional hair cells and auditory neurons.

Moreover, on behalf of the initiating unit, Professor Gang Wu, Executive Vice President of Southeast University, expressed his gratitude to the leaders and experts attending the meetings for their long-term concern about and support to the scientific and technological work of Southeast University, introduced the strong scientific research foundation of the University in related research fields, and committed that the University would do a good job in organizing the program, thereby ensuring the smooth implementation of the program.

Executive Vice President Gang Wu and Academician Gaojun Teng jointly issued letters of appointment for experts directing the program.

The program leader Professor Renjie Chai and subject facilitators Rongrong Zhu, Genglin Li and Huisheng Liu reported the implementation plans of the program and the subject in detail from the perspectives of research background of the program and subject, status quo at home and abroad, research thoughts, research objectives, research contents, research protocols, technical routes, implementation plans, key implementation nodes, organization and management mechanisms, and achievement presentation.

After listening to the report of program leaders and subject facilitators, the expert group directing the program fully affirmed the feasibility of program implementation plans and the innovation of key technologies, fully discussed and analyzed the overall implementation plan of the program and the possible problems during implementation, and put forward constructive suggestions and opinions on the expected results as well as popularization and application of the program. In addition, the expert group formulated evaluation opinions on such aspects as core technological innovation, technical risks possibly occurring during program implementation, implementation of program organization and management plans, and interface between the program and the undertaking unit through question discussion: The expert group believed that the program implementation plans were compliant with the requirements of the program charter, with clear stage objectives of program and division of labor. Besides, the program implementation plans were concrete and feasible, with reasonable technical routes and plan arrangement. The expert group unanimously agreed to pass the demonstration of the program implementation plans.

Group photo of program demonstration meeting

Furthermore, the program leader Professor Renjie Chai expressed his heartfelt thanks to the leaders and experts for their suggestions on behalf of the research team, and said that he would conduct in-depth demonstration in accordance with the opinions of the expert group, further consolidate the research foundation, perfect the program plans, execute scientific management, speed up the research work, and complete the research objectives with high quality and high standards as scheduled. Sensorineural deafness, a disease of the auditory system, is mainly ascribed to irreversible damage to hair cells and auditory neurons. In this program, the type of key cells involved in hearing damage repair would be analyzed by single-cell sequencing technology, the cell heterogeneity in hearing damage repair would be clarified, and the temporal and spatial characteristics together with the mechanisms of regeneration of hair cells and auditory neurons would be revealed. Besides, an investigation would be carried out on the characteristics of gene transcription and epigenetic regulation of stem cells and neural stem cells in inner ear at different stages, and gene therapy and functional new biomaterials would be employed to activate endogenous stem cells and regulate stem cell microenvironment, thus promoting the regeneration of functional hair cells and functional auditory neurons and further realizing the reconstruction of auditory organs and the recovery of auditory function. (Yuxin Wu, Qian Wang, and Shouqin Cheng)