Home > Funded Research > Funding Results > Funding Results of Other Schemes > RGC Central Allocation - List of Projects Funded from 1991/1992 to 2006/2007 > RGC Central Allocation - Layman summaries of projects funded since 2006/2007 exercise

RGC Central Allocation - Layman summaries of projects funded since 2006/2007 exercise

Mercury contamination in freshwater and marine fish cultivated around the Pearl River Delta and its health risk assessment
Principal Investigator: Prof Wong Ming-hung (HKBU)

Mercury (Hg) is a widely used heavy metal that demands attention due to its potential adverse impacts on environmental and human health. Mercury exists in several chemical forms with different toxicities. The most toxic form is methylmercury (MeHg), which is usually formed in aquatic environments. The fish produced from Hg-contaminated water bodies may contain high levels of MeHg that may get into the food chain, thereby imposing health hazards to humans. The major objective of this research project is to investigate the current status of Hg contamination in aquaculture at the Pearl River Delta region, and to carry out a health risk assessment.

Discovery and development of biomarkers for evidence-based Chinese medicines using the proteomic technology platform
Principal Investigator: Prof. Wen Luan Wendy Hsiao (HKBU)

Proteomics is a novel and powerful technology that studies the complete catalog of every protein in a given biological source, such as serum, urine, cell extracts, etc. It has been successfully applied for biomarker discovery in diseases and symptoms. Such a global approach is particularly suitable for the investigation of the drug action of Chinese Medicine (CM) that is believed to be multi-compound, multi-target, multi-pathway, and multi-factor in nature. In this project, we propose to employ proteomic profiling analysis for the identification of clinically relevant biomarkers in two disease animal models (colon cancer and rheumatoid arthritis animal models) under CM treatment. The biomarkers established from this project will not only provide insights toward the action of CM, linking biological processes and signaling pathways to the efficacy of CM, but it will also lend an useful experimental model for evidence-based clinical study of CM.

Daya Bay Reactor Neutrino Oscillation Experiment
Principal Investigator: Prof M C Chu (CUHK)

The recent dramatic discovery that neutrinos are both massive and oscillating promises to revolutionise the study of particle physics, cosmology and astrophysics. However, the value of a key parameter for describing neutrino oscillation, 13, remains unknown. A team of local and international physicists plans to conduct an experiment at the Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant to determine this parameter by measuring the flux of antineutrinos from several nuclear reactors, using underground detectors to suppress the cosmogenic background. This project will promote Hong Kong as a regional centre in fundamental physics research and foster long-term collaboration with leading international research institutes.

Protein-phosphoinositides Interactions in Neuronal Signaling
Principal Investigator: Prof Zhang Mingjie (HKUST)

Phosphoinositides (PIPs) are important signaling lipids that are distributed in various cellular membranes. PIPs, via binding to proteins, actively regulate numerous cellular processes. In this project, we will investigate the structure and functions of several novel protein-lipid interactions that are implicated in both normal as well as abnormal functioning of brain cells. We aim to elucidate the biochemical and structural basis of the interactions between PIPs with these proteins and to uncover the physiological significance of these newly identified protein-lipid interactions. This project is expected to make important contributions to understanding a number of human diseases including neurodegenerative diseases and cancers.

Integrated III-Nitride Transistors and Microsensors
Principal Investigator: Prof Lau Key May (HKUST)

Robust, stable, and sensitive micro-sensors are useful in many different areas. The emergence of new materials with unique properties opens new dimensions for sensor applications. The use of semiconductors for sensing offers great advantages for integration of functions such as signal processing and control with miniaturization. III-nitride, a wide band-gap semiconductor, has been successfully developed in the past ten years for short wavelength optical emitters and power RF transistors. Great material improvements of III-nitrides have allowed other possible applications, such as sensors requiring particular robustness in harsh environments. The wide band-gap properties and the strong piezoelectric effects shown in III-nitrides are desirable in high-temperature pressure sensors, which are necessary in the aviation and automotive industries. An in-depth investigation of integrated III-nitride transistors and sensors will be conducted in this interdisciplinary program involving experts in different areas from three Hong Kong universities.

Structure-function of Metal-binding Proteins in Helicobacter pylori
Principal Investigator: Prof Sun Hongzhe (HKU)

The goals are to identify key metal-binding proteins that are crucial for the survival and virulence of Helicobacter pylori by comparative genomics and proteomics; to validate and functionally characterize the promising proteins, and to over-express and structurally characterize selected metal-binding proteins (e.g. nickel transport/storage proteins). Our approach includes using molecular genetic and comparative enomics/proteomics approaches, to elucidate the roles played by metal-binding proteins in cell growth regulation, stress response, biofilm formation, and virulence. Structural biology will provide hints for drug development. The anticipated discoveries will provide a more comprehensive scenario of Helicobacter pylori on a molecular basis and may offer novel approaches for combating pathogenic bacteria and stomach cancer.

Vascular Dysfunction in Obesity and Diabetes: From Risk Prediction to Therapeutic Intervention
Principal Investigator: Dr. Aimin Xu (HKU)


Cardiovascular disease, such as stroke and heart attack, ranks among the top causes of death and hospitalization in the ageing population. Obesity and diabetes are the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The primary objective of this collaborative project is to establish an integrated basic and clinical research platform in Hong Kong for studying vascular disease in relation to obesity and diabetes. We will comprehensively investigate the pathological roles of several fat-derived circulation factors in the development of these diseases in both animal models and human subjects. Ultimately, this study is expected to help identify novel diagnostic markers and therapeutic targets for treatment and/or prevention of cardiovascular disease associated with obesity and diabetes.

Aging: Epigenetic regulation, cell cycle checkpoint control and stem cell potency
Principal Investigator: Dr Zhou Zhongjun (HKU)

Aging is the age-related deterioration of the body function. As normal aging progresses over a long period of time, precocious/accelerated aging syndromes become ideal models for aging research. In this study, Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome (HGPS) and a related mouse model, Zmpste24 deficiency, will be used to study several aspects of aging, such as epigenetic alterations, cell division control and stem cell contribution. We expect to identify the similarities and difference between normal aging and accelerated aging.

Plasma Immersion Ion Implantation and Deposition (PIII&D) Equipment
Principal Investigator: Prof Paul Chu (CityU)

Plasma immersion ion implantation and deposition (PIII&D) is a versatile technique used for modifying surface properties of materials and industrial components. Prof. Paul Chu and his coworkers at City University of Hong Kong designed and built the 1st generation PIII&D equipment in 1996. This equipment has supported more than 40 research projects involving researchers from about 80 universities, institutions and companies from all over the world. The current award is to acquire a new and up-to-date PIII&D machine to replace the old instrument. The new machine will incorporate state-of-the-art technologies, thus enabling our research staff, local and international users to continue their cutting-edge research studies

Green Oxidation Chemistry and Technology
Principal Investigator: Prof Tai-chu Lau (CityU)

Green chemistry is defined as the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances. Prof. Tai-chu Lau and his coworkers at City University of Hong Kong will establish an interdisciplinary research program to stimulate the development of green chemistry and technology in Hong Kong. They will focus on green catalytic oxidation chemistry and technology, which is a key technology for converting petroleum-based materials to a wide variety of useful chemicals. Their goal is to develop processes that will operate at room temperature, using environmentally benign reagents such as hydrogen peroxide, oxygen and water, rather than toxic solvents.

Ginsenoside as Functional Ligands of Steroid Hormone Receptors: from Ligand-Receptor Interaction to Cellular Homeostasis
Principal Investigator: Prof Ricky NS Wong (HKBU)

Ginseng has long been regarded in the Asian countries as the "all-healing" medicine. Its general tonic and specific therapeutic effects have been well documented. However, the mechanisms responsible for such effects are not well understood, although some earlier studies by the principal investigator and his coworkers suggest that ginseng may affect the action of specific hormones. Part of the problem is that there are over 30 chemically active ingredients in ginseng, known as ginsenosides. The objective of the present research is to perform a comprehensive study of these ginsenosides, determining how these chemicals exert their biological effects on hormone activity and eventually developing a solid foundation for ginseng-based therapeutics.

Redefining the West River: Ming and Qing State Building and the Transformation of Native Society
Principal Investigator: Professor David W Faure (CUHK)

The West River is a principal waterway linking the provinces of Yunnan, Guangxi, Guizhou and Guangdong. During the Ming and the Qing dynasties, large portions of these provinces were transformed from regimes controlled by local chieftains (known as tusi) into administrative districts placed under county magistrates. This transformation had profound impact on native society. Investigators from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and the Sun Yatsen University in Guangzhou will jointly explore this transformation, by studying the remains of temples and ancestral halls, steles, genealogies, land documents, religious records and rituals that local people still perform. They will look for markers of cultural changes, often associated with religious ritual performance, the integration of the locality into the Chinese state, and hence the variation of local cultures at specific historical times.

New Directions in Network Coding
Principal Investigator: Professor Robert SY Li (CUHK)

Data forwarding through the Internet is by store-and-forward mechanism (i.e., copying). Simple copying may be the most natural way to forward a message, but the widely applicable mechanism of network coding is more efficient. Network coding achieves maximal bit rate, minimal latency, and minimal energy consumption in assorted wireless networks, peer-to-peer content distribution, and other forms of communications. This primary objective of this project is to investigate the principles of network coding for reliable network communications and for application to IP Television.

Systematic Study of Essential Protein Kinases Involved in Cell Growth and Differentiation
Principal Investigator: Prof. Zhenguo Wu (HKUST)

Protein kinases are a family of enzymes responsible for adding phosphate group(s) to other cellular proteins. This important biochemical process is known as phosphorylation. Mutations in certain protein kinases have been linked to several human diseases including cancers. Currently, 518 protein kinases have been identified in both the human and mouse genomes. Although many kinases have been characterized in the past, a systematic study of all protein kinases involved in cell growth and differentiation is still lacking. In this project, Prof. Zhenguo Wu and his coworkers at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology plan to examine the functions of all 518 protein kinases using an RNA interference (RNAi)-based screening method. RNAi, the discovery of which culminated in a Nobel Prize in 2006, is a powerful approach to shut down specific genes in cells. Two cell models, one involving neuronal cells and the other skeletal muscle cells, will be employed for our study. This study should generate a more comprehensive view of key protein kinases involved in cell growth and differentiation and provide new targets for development of effective drugs.

Esophageal Carcinoma Research Center
Principal Investigator: Prof. Maria Li Lung (HKUST)

Esophageal Carcinoma (EC) is a cancer whose development is associated with dietary factors, eating/drinking habits, and hereditary risk. It occurs with the highest frequency in parts of Northern China with fatality rate of nearly 90%. In Hong Kong, this cancer is usually not diagnosed until quite late in its progression, making it difficult to treat effectively. New diagnostic markers and treatment options are required to improve survival chances for EC patients. This award provides the funds to establish the first Esophageal Carcinoma Research Center (ECRC) in Hong Kong, consisting of faculty from four universities, who have complementary expertise in various areas of basic and clinical EC research. Prof. Maria Li Lung and her coworkers plan to determine the molecular genetic basis of sporadic EC and identify genomic regions associated with hereditary EC in high-risk Northern China. They will establish models for normal esophageal epithelial cell lines and perform studies to identify key genes involved in EC development. Further investigations will identify specific genetic markers for improved diagnosis and prognosis of EC, as well as develop predictive model for its responsiveness toward chemo-radiotherapy and other treatment options. Ultimately, these studies are expected to improve treatment outcomes for afflicted EC patients.

Electromagnetic Resonant Structures and Plasmonic Structures
Principal Investigator: Prof. Che Ting Chan (HKUST)

This research program involves the collaboration between theorists and experimentalists to explore the physical properties of a new generation of artificial materials that can control light. Prof. Che Ting Chan and his coworkers at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology plan to use a combination of special structure-induced resonance, combined with intrinsic material resonance (called "plasmon") to control light. Such resonance structures can in principle give us many interesting phenomena. For example, a flat lens may be fabricated to achieve very high resolution. One can even control thermal radiation. Some designs can reduce light scattering to the point that an object appears to be invisible. This research, if successful, provides an excellent example of the "materials-by-design" approach, in which new materials are purposely designed for specific applications.

Molecular Pathology of Liver Cancer - a Multidisciplinary Study
Prof. Irene OL Ng (HKU)

Liver cancer is a major malignancy worldwide and is particularly prevalent in Asia, including Hong Kong. Development of liver cancer is a known to be a multi-step process. Prof. Irene Ng and her coworkers at the University of Hong Kong plan to examine the genetic and molecular alterations in human tissue samples and mouse models at different stages of the diseases. Studies examining the role of hepatitis B virus will be included as well. In addition, the research will attempt to unravel how signaling in abnormal cells drives the growth of liver cancer, including activities in critical genes.

Peptidomimetics: Design, Synthesis and Biomedical Applications
Principal Investigator: Prof Dan Yang (HKU)

Naturally occurring proteins and peptides play an essential role in biological systems, functioning as enzymes, antibodies, hormones, ligands and receptors. However, the use of proteins and peptides as drugs has been hampered by their poor absorption and stability. Therefore, the search for peptidomimetics, molecules that mimic the functions of natural peptides and proteins with better stability and availability, is not only of great intellectual challenge, but also of practical relevance. In this group research project, investigators at the University of Hong Kong plan to take an interdisciplinary approach to explore the potential of aminoxy acids, a class of unnatural amino acids, as building blocks of peptidomimetics in developing anti-cancer and anti-viral agents, synthetic ion channels, and biomaterials for drug delivery, wound healing and tissue engineering.