On May 7, according to the official account of Shenzhen Bay Laboratory,Chen Zhoufeng joined the SBL full-time as a senior researcher of the Institute of Neurological Diseases.Before that, Chen has worked in the United States for more than 30 years.
March 23, Shenzhen Bay Laboratory has announced that theappointment of Yan Ning, director of the Shenzhenbay Lab.
Chen Zhoufeng, Russell D. and Mary B. Shelden, Tenured Professor of Anesthesiology, Psychiatry, Developmental Sciences, and Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine Named Chair Professor and Director of the Center for Itch and Sensory Disorders at the University of Washington.The research focuses on the molecular neural mechanisms of itch, pleasurable touch, empathy, and infectious behavior, including neuropeptide-mediated signaling, chronic somatosensory coding logic, and the role of pleasurable touch in empathic and pro-social behaviors.
The University of Washington established the Center for Itch and Sensory Diseases, the first itch research center in the world, with Prof. Chen serving as the founding director. Chen Zhoufeng chose to return to China for development because of the impact of “China Action Plan,” theUnited States NIH launched an investigation on Chen, and the University of Washington chose to stand on the side of NIH, forced its laboratory closed.
A pioneer in the field of itch research
Chen Zhoufeng is a famous pruritus expert and pioneer in pruritus research.Professor Chen first discovered the itch gene-Gastrin Releasing Peptide Receptor (GRPR) and the neural circuitry that transmits itch sensation in the central nervous system. His research opened up a new field of research on the molecular and neural mechanisms of modern itch sensation, so the University of Washington established the world’s first interdisciplinary itch research center. In addition to itch sensation, Chen has recently focused on the molecular neural mechanisms of pleasurable touch and its role in mood and social behavior. The molecular neural mechanism of pleasurable touch, which transmits emotional feelings, has long been neglected. Chen Qifeng first established a method to measure pleasant touch in mice, and found the neuropeptide Prokineticin2 (or PROK2) and specific Shenjingyuan which encodes pleasant touch. These breakthroughs open up entirely new directions in this important research area. Based on years of research, he first proposed that various chronic somatosensory information (itch, pleasure touch, inflammatory pain, etc.) is transmitted to the spinal cord by specific neuropeptide coding theory. He believes that neuropeptides and their receptors GPCR are important messengers that encode and transmit various types of chronic somatosensors, and also neurotransmitters that convey emotional information in the brain.
It is an interesting problem in science that how the brain perceives and distinguishes the external world so as to guide the corresponding behaviour and emotional responses. Although this type of research (vision, smell, touch, etc.) has won many Nobel Prizes, our understanding of the molecular and neural mechanisms of sensation is still very limited. Chen’s research has had an impact in several areas, arousing interest and follow-up in areas including pain, skin, anesthesia, GPCR and more. His findings also have important clinical implications. The negative effects of chronic itching on a person’s physical and mental health,Neurodevelopmental disorders, mental health disorders and social autistic avoidance behaviors caused by parents neglecting to touch and hug their children.These are medical and social issues that need to be addressed. Chen Qifeng’s series of GPCR-based work provided new drug targets and laid the molecular foundation for future research and development, transformation, and treatment of related diseases.
The lab was forced to close and chose to return home to develop
Chen chose to return to China this time because he was treated unfairly in America.The American National Institutes of Health (NIH) launched an investigation into Chen Zhoufeng because of the China Action Plan.
The University of Washington chose to side with the NIH and forced the closure of its laboratory.
In mid-March this year, the official website of West Lake University showed that Professor Fu Xiangdong, a famous Chinese scientist who was also affected by the “China Action Plan,” had returned to join West Lake University as a professor of RNA biology and regenerative medicine. In December 2022, Mr Fu was forced to resign after four decades in the US and three decades at UCSD (investigations began in 2019 after the launch of the China Initiative in America).
However, Chen Gang, former chairman of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and academician of the American Academy of Engineering, who was also affected by the “China Action Plan,” firmly stood by Chen Gang’s side. More than 100 MITprofessors have issued a joint letter in support of Chen Gang, and MIT President Rafael Reif also issued a letter to publicly support Chen Gang. After being released from prison a year after his arrest, Chen Gang chose to stay at MIT. Recently, Chen Gang was elected to the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.
More than 20 Chinese researchers have been innocent affected
The Washington Post said the withdrawal of Chen Gang’s case marked the “most dramatic setback” in the administration’s so-called China Initiative. The infamous program was launched in 2018 by the Trump administration to prevent China from engaging in “economic espionage” and “stealing scientific research.”
So far, 20 researchers have been affected innocently, most of them are Chinese scientists. The New York Times said data released by MIT Technology Review showed that 90 percent of the defendants were ethnic Chinese, and about a quarter of the defendants were ultimately convicted.
The US government’s approach has made the academic community feel uneasy and accelerated the return of Chinese scientists. According to the Wall Street Journal, more than half a dozen top researchers of Chinese descent said in interviews that they had either jumped back to China from their positions at American universities or were looking for opportunities to do so.