Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine
Stem cell research is gathering momentum at HKU, with the goal of becoming a regional and global leader in the field.
Stem cell and regenerative medicine has the potential to treat incurable conditions related to the inability of certain cells in the body to regenerate. These conditions can be caused by diseases such as heart attack or stroke, traumas such as spinal cord injuries, or ageing effects such as glaucoma. At HKU, researchers have been developing strength in this field and are preparing to raise their profile through this Emerging SRT.
The University already has several strategic areas of excellence in stem cell research, such as cell-based heart regeneration, basic and clinical stem cell biology, orthopaedic engineering, blood and cancer stem cells, stem cell immunology and bio-artificial tissue engineering. It is one of four major stem cell centres in China, and arguably the most international, with ongoing collaborative projects or programmes involving such centres as Johns Hopkins University, Stanford, Harvard, Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and the University of Edinburgh.
With this ground laid, researchers now plan to raise the profile and level of activity of stem cell research at HKU. An in-house Good Manufacturing Practice facility has been established with several cell-based clinical trials in the pipeline. A range of in vitro diagnostic tools developed at HKU is also being commercialised for industrial applications. The immediate focus is on enhancing capability and quality, rather than just quantity, to become a key stem cell research centre in the region and the world. There are also plans to establish a joint PhD programme in stem cell biology with a foreign reputable university, and to collaborate with the Innovation Technology Commission and other units on setting up a regional biotech cluster focused on stem cells that would enhance Hong Kong's knowledge-based economy.
The team is also working to raise public awareness of the possibilities of stem cell research through knowledge exchange activities – such as public lectures, laboratory visits, meet-the-expert luncheons and Nobel Laureate lectures – with a particular focus on getting secondary school and university students interested in the field.
Related major work at the University includes the 'Cell-based Heart Regeneration' and 'Genetics and Functional Genomics of Neural Crest Stem Cells and Associated Disease: Hrschsprung Disease' Theme-based Research Scheme projects.