Uncovering the secrets of Vasa in germ cell formation by a research team lead by Dr. Ming-Der Lin.


In Metazoans, germ cell specification is critical for establishing the germline lineage. For acquiring germline identity, cells can recruit germline determinants from maternal germ plasm, typically preformed in an uncellularised egg chamber, or receive signals from neighbouring cells to induce the expression of germline genes. Since Vasa  was first identified as a component of the germ plasm in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster about 30 years ago it has been clear that the vasa gene and its products are conserved germline markers across the animal phyla. Nonetheless, how the sequence of vasa relates to the development of germ cells remains largely unknown. This finding unveils a novel role of HELICc in addition to its well-known helicase function to localized Vasa to the germ plasm in Drosophila. By contrast, the divergent N-terminal sequences were not decisive to the germ plasm localization of Vasa though they were involved in the formation of pole cells and abdominal segments. Accordingly, we have greatly advanced the understanding about the connections between sequences and functions of Vasa using evo-devo and genetic approaches. Moreover, our findings shed light on how Vasa can act as a versatile germline marker.



Research team of Tzu Chi University reports the two-hit hypothesis on the elicitation of dengue hemorrhage fever  


As the dengue epidemic continues to spread in Taiwan, with hundreds of people died of severe dengue infections, the research team of Tzu Chi University has achieved a major progress on the establishment of a two-hit model of the dengue hemorrhage fever (DHF).

Primary dengue virus infection can induce mild symptoms, which is known as dengue fever, a self limited disease. However, instead of inducing protective immunity, secondary infections of dengue virus may induce life threatening DHF. Therefore, abnormal immune responses were though as part of the pathophysiology of DHF. Probably because of the pathogenic mechanism of DHF remains unclear, no specific treatments and effective vaccines are currently available.

An integrated group of three research teams of Professor Hsin-Hou Chang and Der-Shan Sun at Department of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, Tzu-Chi University, and Professor Wen-Sheng Wu at Department of Laboratory Medicine and Biotechnology, College of Medicine, Tzu Chi University, has proposed a two-hit hypothesis for dengue hemorrhage fever: viremia of dengue virus is the first hit, and dengue-elicited autoantibody is the second hit. When damages that induced by both hits over the pathological thresholds, the hemorrhage pathogenesis is elicited. Using this hypothesis, the research group of Tzu-Chi University has successfully demonstrated that concurrent dengue virus and autoantibodies treatments are able to elicit hemorrhage pathogenesis in a mouse model. The relevant studies have been published in the international journals “Thrombosis and Haemostasis” and “Journal of Immunology” 1,2, and the 10th Asia-Pacific Medical International conference 3.

Professor Chang has suggested that if the two-hit model is indeed involved in the hemorrhage pathogenesis, screening of autoantibody titers or other pathogenic factors may be applied prior to the elicitation of hemorrhage pathogenesis. With such surveillance, DHF might be treated at an early stage. In addition, as the dengue nonstructural protein NS1 can elicit autoantibody in the host, how to prevent the elicitation of autoantibody is one of the major challenges to develop a safe and effective dengue vaccine.



  1. Lien TS, Sun DS, Chang CM, Wu CY, Dai MS, Chan H, Wu WS, Su SH, Lin YY, Chang HH. Dengue virus and antiplatelet autoantibodies synergistically induce haemorrhage through Nlrp3-inflammasome and FcγRIII.Thrombosis and Haemostasis 113, 1060-70 (2015).
  2. Sun DS, Chang YC, Lien TS, King CC, Shih YL, Huang HS, Wang TY, Li CR, Lee CC, Hsu PN, Chang HH. Endothelial Cell Sensitization by Death Receptor Fractions of an Anti-Dengue Nonstructural Protein 1 Antibody Induced Plasma Leakage, Coagulopathy, and Mortality in Mice. Journal of Immunology 195, 2743-53 (2015).
  3. Chang HH. Dengue Virus and Antiplatelet Autoantibodies Synergistically Induce Hemorrhage in the Two-hit Mouse Model. 10th Asia-Pacific Congress of Medical Virology (APCMV), OS 4-4, Oct/17 (2015).


Figure. The two-hit hypothetical model; adopted from reference 2.


2015. JAN India SRM University exchange student Anna’s latter

My Experience at fly laboratory

My experience in Tzu Chi University as an exchange student was unforgettable. I am Anna Shiney, Graduate student from SRM University, India. As an exchange annaprogram I chose to do my graduate final year project in Laboratory of Developmental Genetics, Department of Molecular Biology andHuman Genetics, Tzu Chi University, Taiwan under Dr. MingDer Lin. It was January 5th ’15, my first day in the laboratory. My research in “fly lab” was like a seed started to grow in a good land. Stepping into the lab I was little nervous about my experiments. Since it was the first time i am working in a developmental biology lab. Studying in a text book and learning at the bench (Lab) experience is a different experience. Learning is not just teaching but thinking in different perspective to attain the goals. That’s what I experienced in fly lab. Here, I was not taught. But I was given an idea to think, analyse and do. Every time I set up my experiments, I would be recalled by Dr. Lin’s words “Do you want to be a technician or a scientist?” His words always reminded me to not just follow the protocols but think beyond the boxes. After this trip, my perspective towards research was in a different light. Now I know that science is much more interesting and it needs lot of dedication. After my 6 months internship, when I presented my work in my school, I could see my own reflection grown up in terms of knowledge and perspective towards research. Thank you so much Dr. Linand all the lab members for your great organization and enthusiasm.

Nǐ shì yīgè měihǎo de hé fèngxiàn jīngshén de jiàoshī. Xièxiè nǐ ràng wǒ jīntiān wǒ shì shuí

P.S. I would never forget the welcome dinner, Taroko park visit and Chinese New Year vacations and all the fun we had.


* Anna Shiney is currently an assistant professor in Prist University, Manamai, ECR, Chennai




Uncover the mystery of Bacillus anthracis lethal toxin-final


Uncover the mystery of Bacillus anthracis lethal toxin


Bacillus anthracis spores are deadly biological weapons. After terrorists delivered mails containing anthrax spores in 2001 in the United States, again awaken the world to the attention of anthrax. Dr. Der-Shan Sun, Professor at the Department of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics of Tzu Chi University cooperated with Professor Hsin-Hou Chang and Institute of Preventive Medicine and Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of Mennonite Christian Hospital. They found that anthrax lethal toxin can kill megakaryocytes (the precursor cells of platelets in the bone marrow) and red blood precursor cells, and cause anthrax symptoms like thrombocytopenia, anemia, hypoxia in mice model; however, if administered thrombopoietin (TPO), erythropoietin (EPO) or granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) to promote platelet production, erythropoiesis and released into the peripheral blood, you can relieve these symptoms, and improve the survival in anthrax lethal toxin-injected mice. These results provide another way to treat anthrax besides antibiotic use. These findings were published in three recent papers (PLoS ONE, 8, e59512, 2013; PLoS ONE, 8, e71718, 2013; PLoS ONE, 9, e111149, 2014) [1-3].

Anthrax is a zoonotic disease, usually only infect person engaged in agriculture or eating anthrax infected-meat. Bacillus anthracis spores can survive under heat or cold environment for many years. Early flu-like symptoms of anthrax is not easy to attract attention. If found early, antibiotics can be used to effetely kill anthrax, but once the treatment is not immediately lead to the release of anthrax toxins over the body, nothing will be helpful. Thus, the development of additional therapy against anthrax toxin is a very important issue.

These fruitful results are from the cooperation with the Institute of Preventive Medicine and Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of Mennonite Christian Hospital and the Medical Statistics Jen-Hung Wang from Buddhist Tzu Chi General Hospital. In addition, hard works and research efforts from master students of Department of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics and doctoral students from Institute of Medical Sciences in Professor Der-Shan Sun’s and Professor Hsin-Hou Chang’s laboratories are the major contribution. All results come from the excellent research environment from the animal center and the center of Campus Precious Instrument of Tzu-Chi University as well as financial support from Tzu-Chi University, Ministry of Education, and Ministry of Science and Technology. The research teams currently use Bacillus anthracis lethal toxin as molecular screening tool for further study the molecular mechanism of erythropoiesis and megakaryopoiesis.


Related Links

Professor Der-Shan Sun laboratory site:

[1]        H.H. Chang, T.P. Wang, P.K. Chen, Y.Y. Lin, C.H. Liao, T.K. Lin, Y.W. Chiang, W.B. Lin, C.Y. Chiang, J.H. Kau, H.H. Huang, H.L. Hsu, C.Y. Liao, D.S. Sun, Erythropoiesis suppression is associated with anthrax lethal toxin-mediated pathogenic progression, PLoS One 8 (2013) e71718.

[2]        P.K. Chen, H.H. Chang, G.L. Lin, T.P. Wang, Y.L. Lai, T.K. Lin, M.C. Hsieh, J.H. Kau, H.H. Huang, H.L. Hsu, C.Y. Liao, D.S. Sun, Suppressive effects of anthrax lethal toxin on megakaryopoiesis, PLoS One 8 (2013) e59512.

[3]        H.H. Chang, Y.W. Chiang, T.K. Lin, G.L. Lin, Y.Y. Lin, J.H. Kau, H.H. Huang, H.L. Hsu, J.H. Wang, D.S. Sun, Erythrocytic mobilization enhanced by the granulocyte colony-stimulating factor is associated with reduced anthrax-lethal-toxin-induced mortality in mice, PLoS One 9 (2014) e111149.


Professor Der-Shan Sun laboratory currently has a doctoral program, four master classes (including three of five consistent students and an exchange student) and 10 undergraduate students. Weekly meetings are held to discuss the progress and experiments of each student.


Professor Der-Shan Sun discussed the procedure of cord blood stem cells culture with students.


Professor Der-Shan Sun discussed the flow cytometry data with student.




Professor Der-Shan Sun discussed the experimental processes with students


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