An Explorer of the Mystery of Life

May 8, 2017  By Liu Xue  Editor: Joyce Dong
An Explorer of the Mystery of Life
Chen Lingling at work []


For 40-year-old biologist Chen Lingling, it is a highly meaningful challenge to explore the world of science.

"What a terrible thing it would be if people no longer did their best to hunt the unknown world!" said Chen, researcher at the Shanghai Institute for Biochemistry and Cell Biology, a subsidiary of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

She was awarded the L'Oréal-UNESCO Women in Science China Award in February for her contributions to advancing the understanding of the mechanisms and functional roles of IncRNA regulation in human genomes.

Cracking the "Genetic Code" for Prader-Willi Syndrome

Prader-Willi syndrome is a high-occurrence genetic disorder, which can be found in every 1,000 to 2,000 newborns. In childhood, patients become constantly hungry which often leads to obesity.

So far the syndrome's pathomechanism is still unclear, and its clinical symptoms are quite complicated.

"Prader-Willi syndrome is a kind of birth defect. If found earlier it can be intervened with and treated in advance," said Chen.

Her team has uncovered two types of long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) whose abnormal functioning may be closely related to the syndrome's occurrence and development. The finding has offered a chance for carrying out timely intervention to prevent the birth defect from happening.

Chen and her team are making efforts to provide further assistance in its intervention and treatment.

Since returning to China and setting up her lab in 2011, Chen has made a series of breakthroughs in lncRNAs study and discovered four molecular clans.

"It's always intensely exciting to move closer toward truth and clear up mysteries," she said.

Setting Her Mind to Contribute to China's Scientific Progress

When asked why she chose to engage in biological research, Chen said: "I was interested in biological phenomena since childhood. When I attended university, I chose biology as my major and was gradually fascinated with it during my studies."

When graduating from the University of Connecticut with an MBA degree and a doctorate in Biomedical Engineering, she could have found a well-paid job at an enterprise but she opted for scientific research instead.

"After I studied business I found what I was really interested in was still science," she explained. "Comparatively speaking, it appeals to me more to explore the unknown world."

But she said she benefited a lot from that period of interdisciplinary study, thanks to the knowledge and concepts she acquired from her former MBA courses, she now manages her team and runs her lab in a more scientific and efficient manner.

In January 2011, Chen and her husband, also a research fellow, came back to her motherland.

She recalled that many people have asked her why she returned. She told them decisively: "I want to make scientific and research findings of China's own independent intellectual property rights."

No National Boundaries or Gender Distinction in Science

This February, Chen, along with 10 other outstanding female scientists, was granted with an award from the All-China Women's Federation and the China Association for Science and Technology.

"There are no national boundaries or gender distinctions in terms of scientific innovation," she said.

But Chen believes that female research fellows usually pay more in reality and need further understanding and support from their families and society.

Meanwhile she felt much research is interdisciplinary under the new historical conditions, so science workers should keep extending their knowledge.

When it comes to the future, she said she would stick to her studies as usual, treasure each minute and enjoy every bit of her progress.

"Perhaps in others' eyes, my progress is trivial or insignificant to mention. But for me it may be a big step forward in life," she said.

As the mother of a two-year-old girl, Chen introduced that accompanying her daughter is her most enjoyable recreational activity.

"I hope I can grow with her and sense the development and progress of the new times from her point of view," she concluded.

(Source: Xinhua/Translated and edited by Women of China)

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