The problem of ageing populations is affecting the entire developed world. In Hong Kong, for instance, one-quarter of the population will be over 60 years old by the year 2020, placing a great strain on healthcare and support services. HKU scientists are providing help by finding ways to identify, treat and manage age-related diseases.
The SRT on Ageing brings together world-renowned experts in the Faculties of Medicine, Social Sciences and Education, who have been making inroads in scientific investigations of age-related diseases. They have already made important breakthroughs relating to cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease, and there is promise of more to come. Their work covers three main programme areas:
Cardiometabolic research on ageing concerns research into cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Our researchers have identified novel biomarkers of cardiometabolic diseases and inspired hundreds of follow-up studies in the field. They have also been conducting long-term studies of these diseases in populations in southern China and Hong Kong. In the coming years, they will investigate hormones with diagnostic and therapeutic potential and continue to develop their long-term studies and use the databases to inform further research.
Psychosocial research on ageing considers issues in the care of dementia patients and those requiring long-term support. Three projects are planned. One will test the effectiveness of applying a U.S.-based support programme to dementia caregivers in Hong Kong. Another will collect data from long-term care facilities to see how care can be improved and resources best utilised. The third project will test the use of a smartphone application to raise awareness about chronic age-related illnesses in the general population.
HKU Alzheimer's Disease Research Network. This network was formed in 2008 and has resulted in the identification of biomarkers for the progression of Alzheimer's disease, such as a link between the disease and testosterone levels in men. Attention is now turning to combinations of blood, spinal fluid and neuroimaging biomarkers to identify which are the most effective in detecting Alzheimer's disease, and to evaluating the psycho-social impacts on caregivers of Alzheimer's patients.
Related major work at the University includes a project on 'Personalized Medicine for Cardiovascular Diseases: From Genomic Testing and Biomarkers to Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Platform' (Theme-based Research Scheme project) and a Partner State Key Laboratory of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, focusing on diabetes and obesity.
As people age they become more vulnerable to age-related diseases and conditions. We aim to translate our basic and clinical research to real-life clinical applications that can help patients, family caregivers and the community.
Professor K.S.L. Lam, Convenor