Understanding Diseases 知己知彼

Genes are the fundamental building blocks of life, making genetic discoveries part-and-parcel to understanding the nature of diseases. In particular, genetic mutations can often alter the foundational fabrics of life, making it all the more important to ascertain why these abnormalities exist, and how we can begin to make progress in curing diseases and ailments that stem from it.

HKUMed has had over a century of pioneering history in the development of modern medicine in Hong Kong, as well as in the scientific excellence that supports it. As our research teams focus and leverage the strengths of its members towards interdisciplinary synergies and research excellence, we can achieve breakthroughs on a multitude of medical frontiers.



Optimizing the Future by Nick Teeple

HKU Develops a New Platform for Accelerating Protein Engineering and Optimising CRISPR Protein for Higher Fidelity in Gene Editing

CRISPR, the revolutionary technology that allows scientists to edit genes by finding and cutting a specific strand of DNA, is often likened to a pair of scissors. However, issues can arise with the technique if the cut is not accurate.

This is what led a HKUMed team from the School of Biomedical Sciences to develop CombiSEAL, a screening platform to ensure the utmost accuracy for the protein “scissors” used for gene editing.

Their work began by characterising 948 combination mutants of Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9, which is widely used for gene editing. Through screening, they identified Opti-Cas9, which was found to have enhanced editing specificity without sacrificing potency as well as having a broad targeting range.

Their platform is able to test tens of thousands of potential proteins simultaneously, bringing down costs. The screening is designed to achieve more accurate therapeutic editing to avoid inadvertently introducing any other problems into the DNA sequence that could cause problems such as cancer.

Alongside optimising the platform for applications beyond CRISPR, the team is now working to harness artificial intelligence to test ten times as many proteins at once.

嶄新基因篩選平台 確保基因編輯準確

CRISPR 基因編輯酶為編緝基因的革命性科技,常被譬為科學家尋找及剪除特定氨基酸的「剪刀」。然而「剪除」失誤,後果不堪設想。有見及此,港大生物醫學學院的團隊建立了CombiSEAL基因篩選平台,以確保「剪刀」下刀準確無誤。




From Chaos to Grace by Nick Teeple

HKUMed researchers discover a novel mechanism of multicellular pattern formation providing new insights into development

Understanding how cells form patterns and structures as an embryo grows organs or how a zebrafish develops coloured stripes is a fundamental question for scientists.

The complex structures biological systems make it challenging for researchers to understand underlying patterns. This knowledge is crucial for scientists who want to use stem cells to build a structure then use that structure or structures to make an organ. It is also integral for understanding how to repair organs.

To throw light on the processes involved, this research conducted by a team from HKUMed’s School of Biomedical Sciences combined experimental biology with physics to examine self-organisation of different cell types.

Working with two genetically distinct strains of E. coli, researchers fabricated signalling pathways between the two strains to allow them to mutually control their motility. When the strains were programmed to increase the motility of the other strain, the cell populations on the agar plate formed an orderly stripe pattern in concentric rings with each strain appearing alternately.

However, when the two strains were programmed to suppress motility in the other, the resulting pattern was also periodic rings, but with both strains appearing in each ring.

The team is now examining how to achieve a function from a structure, such as how the tiny hairs in the lungs move mucus out of the organ.

發現多細胞系統生物圖案形式機制 理解生物發育之旅





Developing Balance by Nick Teeple

The discovery of a master “hearing gene” – Sox2 – revealed the potential root of deafness.

Occasionally, it is the unintended outcomes that lead to the greatest discoveries. This was particularly true in the accidental production of a transgenic mouse at HKUMed in the 1990s that sparked discussions among the Faculty’s scientists as well as researchers in the United Kingdom.

The mouse, which was produced by a PhD student from the School of Biomedical Sciences, earned the nicknamed “yellow submarine” for its yellow hair colour, unusual circling behaviour, and inability to swim.

Further study of the mutant yellow mouse over a period of 12 years enabled the research team to identify the gene Sox2, which instructs the growth of sensory organs in the mammalian inner ear that are essential for balance and the ability to sense sound.

The research was a breakthrough in identifying the “hearing gene”, providing the team with possible avenues for gene therapy. It also highlighted the important role of Sox2 for ear sensory development and the potential to manipulate the gene to instruct the cells to grow hair.

Thanks to this mixture of serendipity, interdisciplinary research, as well as ties with overseas scientists, the HKUMed team has been able to translate this discovery into practical clinical applications.



老鼠由一名港大生物醫學學院的博士生製造,因毛髮黃色、不尋常地繞圈和不懂游泳,故獲「黃色潛水艇」綽號。研究團隊之後對老鼠進行了長達十二年的研究,期間成功識別Sox2基因。 Sox2基因負責指示哺乳類動物內耳感覺器官的生長,對於操控身體平衡和聽覺,不可或缺。

此研究是個大突破,成功識別「聽覺基因」,為基因治療開拓了新天地。此外,研究亦突顯出 Sox2對耳朵感覺發展的重要性,以及透過控制基因,指示細胞生長毛髮的潛力。


Commissioned Artist 委約藝術家

Nick Teeple

Raised in Wisconsin, USA, Nick currently lives and works in Hong Kong.

Inspired by his family’s roots in metal and glass sculpture practice, he seeks to create new forms and experiences that challenge viewers’ assumptions and stimulate deep experiences of wonder and curiosity, weaving the physical and digital experience through innovative fabrication strategies and cutting-edge technology.

Nick Teeple 於美國威斯康辛出生和長大,現於香港居住及工作。

受到從事金屬和玻璃雕塑創作的家人的熏陶,Nick Teeple擅於利用新穎的創作手法挑戰觀眾對事物的既有想法,利用嶄新科技揉合實體與數碼世界,創作出引人入勝、超乎觀者想像的驚奇作品。