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ANR/RGC Joint Research Scheme - Layman Summaries of Projects Funded in 2013/14 Exercise

A-CUHK403/13
Quantum Control of an Ultracold Gas of Polar Molecules

Hong Kong Principal Investigator: Prof Dajun Wang (The Chinese University of Hong Kong)
Mainland Principal Investigator: Dr. Olivier Dulieu (Université Paris-Sud, Orsay)

The Bose-Einstein condensation of a dilute, ultracold atomic gas¡Afirst realized in 1995¡A has opened up the way to an unprecedented revolution in modern physics. Because of the deep connections with many important physics phenomena, it has been one of the most exciting subjects in physics to date.

Interactions between atoms are nonetheless dictated by intrinsically weak van der Waals interactions. In contrast, polar molecules, which possess a permanent electric dipole moment in their own frame, interact through strong long-range dipole-dipole forces, when an electric field is applied in the lab frame. At ultracold temperatures, this strong, long-range, anisotropic dipole-dipole interaction plays a dominant role and thus leads to a completely new set of highly controllable physics which is not accessible with atoms.

In this proposal, we plan to realize a quantum gas of ultracold polar molecules to fully explore the dipolar quantum physics. At the first stage, we will continue our on-going effort toward ground state polar molecules with high density and ultracold temperature. Once this is achieved, a series of well-controlled collisional studies is planned. Evaporative cooling toward a quantum degenerate gas of polar molecules will also be investigated. Finally, these molecules will be loaded into optical lattices for studying strongly correlated many body physics in a regime which has been out of reach so far. We believe that our findings at different stages of this project will shed new light on the field of dipolar quantum gases as well as many related research areas.

A-HKUST601/13
Calcium signalling in glioblastoma multiforme: Combining oncology and neurogenesis with synthetic biology and optical imaging to relate calcium signalling with neural stemness

Hong Kong Principal Investigator: Prof Andrew L. MILLER (The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology)
Mainland Principal Investigator: Dr. Marc MOREAU (Paul Sabatier University)

In this basic science project, we plan to investigate the much sought after mechanisms that transform normal cells into tumor cells. The project is focused on glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), a relatively frequent tumor of the brain, which is sometimes found in young people, and which is highly resistant to radio- and chemo-therapy. Our goal is to develop a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying the generation of GBM especially from the perspective of calcium signaling, which we hypothesize plays a key role in regulating GBM proliferation.

We plan to employ a novel combination of in vivo and in vitro experiments using animal models (applying techniques such as optogenetics and intracellular calcium imaging), with computer modeling. Our goal from a health-care perspective is to explore the possibility that via the manipulation of calcium signaling we may be able to redirect cellular fate as a way to prevent tumor progression and invasiveness. GBM research is of the highest relevance considering the extremely bad prognosis for patients.

A-HKU705/13
The gut microbiota-adipose tissue axis in the pathogenesis of obesity and its related metabolic disorders: molecular mechanism and clinical implications

HK Principal Investigator: Prof Aimin Xu (The University of Hong Kong)
French Principal Investigator: Prof Jacques Amar (French National Institute of Health and Medical Research)

The prevalence of obesity and its comorbidities, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease, has reached epidemic proportions worldwide. Recent studies demonstrated that alterations of gut microbiota, a complex ecosystem composing of approximately 400-500 bacterial species with over 300 million genes, is a major contributor to the rapid rise in obesity and its related disorders. Both animal and clinical investigations provided compelling evidence that a complex interaction between microbiota, gut and immune systems is a prerequisite for the development of metabolic diseases. However, the pathological events that link alterations in the gut microbial ecosystem and metabolic dysfunction remain poorly understood. In this study, we propose that adipose tissues (fat) are one of the major action sites for gut microbiota, where ittriggers inflammation and alters adipokine production, thereby leading to systemic insulin resistance and metabolic dysregulation. To test this hypothesis, we plan to synergize the strength of our French team in characterization and manipulation of gut microbiota together with the expertise of our Hong Kong team on adipose biology and metabolic phenotyping to comprehensively elucidate the roles and mechanisms whereby gut microbiota, through its actions in adipose tissues, induces subclinical inflammation and diabetes. The results from this study will not only enrich our fundamental knowledge on how the gut microbiota-adipose tissue interaction influences our metabolism and health, but also provide useful information for the future development of new diagnostic tools and/or therapeutic strategies for prevention of obesity and its associated medical complications.