HKUST Researchers Find Phase Transition in Postsynaptic Densities


A research team led by Prof Mingjie Zhang at HKUST, has achieved a breakthrough that provides mechanistic insights into the causes that lead to various neuropsychiatric disorders such as autism, intellectual disorders and schizophrenia. Their studies of the SynGAP/PSD-95 complex formation unexpectedly found physical phase transition in synaptic signaling activity of neurons. The research findings were published in Cell on August 25, 2016.

Original Article: Phase Transition in Postsynaptic Densities Underlies Formation of Synaptic Complexes and Synaptic Plasticity. Source:

Science stars of China – Nancy IP


From ancient DNA to neutrinos and neuroscience, top researchers in China are making big impacts — and raising their country’s standing in science.

NANCY IP: A neuroscientist explores the brain through basic research and translational medicine.

Dr Randy Schekman Explains Secretion of Large Particles and miRNA at HKUST


Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine Dr Randy Schekman Explains Secretion of Large Particles and miRNA at HKUST 25th Anniversary Distinguished Speakers Series

Dr Schekman described a pathway that mediates secretion of specific microRNAs through exosomes. Exosomes are cell-derived vesicles and are implicated to play key roles in processes such as the creation of a pre-metastatic niche in the spread of tumor cells. Dr Schekman showed a biochemical approach to isolate a unique exosome species and identify specific microRNAs including miR-223 that are enriched in the isolated exsomes. Dr Schekman further described the underlying molecular mechanisms that regulate packaging of miR-223 into exosomes.


Nobel Laureate in Chemistry Prof William E Moerner Shares Insights on the Development of Super-resolution Microscopy at HKUST

William E Moerner

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) hosted the 25th Anniversary Distinguished Speakers Series on 16 May, featuring Prof William E Moerner, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry 2014.

In his talk titled “The Story of Single Molecules: How Precise High-resolution Spectroscopy at Low Temperatures Led to Super-resolution Microscopy and Beyond”, Prof Moerner shared with the audience today’s development of super-resolution microscopy since the 1980s when the first optical detection and spectroscopy of a single molecule in the condensed phase was observed.

“Super-resolution microscopy has opened up a new frontier in which biological structures can be observed in fixed and live cells with resolutions down to 20-40 nm and below. Importantly, in spite of the current focus on super-resolution, even in the “conventional” low concentration, single-molecule tracking regime where the motions of individual biomolecules are recorded rather than the shapes of extended structures, much can still be learned about biology,” Prof Moerner said.

Breakthrough Discoveries at HKUST Offer New Hope for Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease


A research team led by Prof Nancy Ip of HKUST found that interleukin-33 (IL-33) ameliorates cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease-like pathology. The groundbreaking study has just been published in PNAS.

Defects in the removal of Aβ protein in the brain are believed to be one of the major causes underlying AD. The team at HKUST showed that the presence of IL-33 mobilized the immune cells of the brain, the microglia, to the amyloid plaques and promoted the clearance of Aβ protein. IL-33 also triggered changes in the microglia to reduce overall inflammation in the brain. Inflammation contributes to and drives the pathology of the disease.

“These exciting findings bring us one step closer to understanding the pathological process of this complex, multi-factorial disease and provide a new avenue for developing AD treatments,” said Prof Ip. “The next step will be to translate the findings from the mouse study into clinical treatments for humans.”

Amy K. Y. Fu, Kwok-Wang Hung, Michael Y. F. Yuen, Xiaopu Zhou, Deejay S. Y. Mak, Ivy C. W. Chan, Tom H. Cheung, Baorong Zhang, Wing-Yu Fu, Foo Y. Liew, and Nancy Y. Ip. (2016) IL-33 ameliorates Alzheimer’s disease-like pathology and cognitive decline. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA doi: 10.1073/pnas.1604032113.

CRISPR-Cas9 Genome Engineering Technology Inventor Prof Emmanuelle Charpentier at HKUST 25th Anniversary Distinguished Speakers Series

Emmanuelle Charpentier

Prof Emmanuelle Charpentier talks about “The Transformative CRISPR-Cas9 Technology in Genome Engineering: Lessons Learned from Bacteria” at HKUST 25th Anniversary Distinguished Speakers Series.

“RNA-programmable CRISPR-Cas9 system could be useful as a versatile system for genome editing in cells of all three kingdoms of life for biotechnological, biomedical and gene-therapeutic purposes.  The technology could open up whole new opportunities in biomedical gene therapies,” Prof Charpentier said.  As demonstrated by a large number of studies published over the last two years, DNA targeting by CRISPR-Cas9 has been quickly and broadly adopted by the scientific community to edit and silence genomes in a large variety of cells and organisms, including human cells, plants and mice.