Voices @ Research: NMRC Research Training Fellowship Experience
Recipient of the 2017 National Medical Research Council (NMRC) Research Training Fellowship Award Dr Ng Kok Pin, Consultant, National Neuroscience Institute, recently completed a one year training fellowship at the McGill University Research Centre for Studies in Aging (MCSA), Montreal. Dr Ng’s main research focus is in PET imaging in neurocognitive diseases. During his training fellowship, he gained immense experience in image processing, image co-registration, image analysis, and the organization of huge datasets, such as the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI).
Breakthrough Discovery about the Human Fetal Immune System
KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) and A*STAR’s Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN) scientists have debunked commonly held assumptions about a fetus’s immune system. The team discovered that the early gestation fetus already has a developed immune system as early as the second trimester, or between week 13 and 27 of pregnancy, and that it is able to respond to pathogens as well as foreign proteins (allo-antigens), and may be working independently of its mother’s. This insight into the beginnings of the human immune system opens possibilities to future immune-directed therapies, and provides better understanding of conditions linked to abnormal immune responses during pregnancy.
NCCS-US Collaboration Uncovers Major Gene Loss & A New Pathway in Liver Cancer Development
Clinician scientist-led research team from National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), in collaboration with the Cleveland Clinic, has discovered that the GATA4 gene, which contributes to normal liver development, is commonly deleted in liver cancer. This first-in-the-world finding has identified how this major gene loss results in abnormal cellular machinery and division, causing unstable cells with wide ranging negative effects, exposing the liver to significant risk of cancer development. Associate Professor Toh Han Chong, Deputy Director and Senior Consultant, NCCS, leader and co-senior author said “In the last many decades of liver cancer research, the molecular understanding of this disease has not led to many therapies which impact on patient survival. We hope that this new finding will light up a treatment path towards greater benefit and outcomes for liver cancer patients.”
Research Pursuits Underway for a Healthier Heart in Asia
A team of researchers in the SingHealth Duke-NUS Cardiovascular Sciences Academic Clinical Programme (ACP) have embarked on a research study to gain insights on how cardiac ageing affects the Asian population. Despite Asia’s rapidly ageing population, and age being a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, there has yet to be any study conducted to better understand how Asians can age healthily. This study on cardiac ageing will leverage on the data collected from the Singapore Chinese Health Study (SCHS), a population-based cohort which recruited more than 63,000 Chinese adults aged between 45 and 74 years from 1993 to 1998. Dr Angela Koh, Consultant, National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS) and Principal Researcher, explains, "We are hopeful that the results of this study will shed new light on the workings of the human heart and how it ages.”
Cell Research to Aid Diagnosis of Arthritis in Kids
A team of researchers from SingHealth Duke-NUS have uncovered a specific type of immune cells that can help predict if a patient with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) will respond positively to treatment. The study found that patients who have T (Treg) cells, a subset of white blood cells, do not respond to the most common type of biologics treatment and in addition, patients’ clinical “fate” is determined by epigenetics – the way each body uses its genes – rather than by genetic make-up. “Clinicians could use this novel group of cells as a marker to diagnose JIA in patients, as well as predict or monitor patients' responsiveness to therapy”, said Principal Investigator Prof Salvatore Albani, Director, SingHealth Translational Immunology and Inflammation Centre (STIIC).
Singapore Scientists Uncover Novel Role of Spindle Matrix Proteins in Activating Neural Stem Cells
A team of researchers, led by Duke-NUS Medical School’s Neuroscience and Behavioural Disorders (NBD) Programme, have uncovered that spindle matrix proteins can play an intrinsic role in regulating neural stem cell (NSC) reactivation and proliferation. Using state-of-art genomic techniques, the study is a first of its kind conducted on fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) and demonstrates great promise for potential stem cell-based therapies for neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders such as microcephaly and Alzheimer’s disease. The study is a multicentre collaboration between Duke-NUS, National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), NUS and A*STAR’s Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS).