The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has received total funding support of HK$25.1 million for 27 projects from the Health and Medical Research Fund (HMRF) in its 2021 funding exercise, signifying an increase in both the number of projects and total amount awarded.
The PolyU projects that received awards represent a broad spectrum of disciplines in which the University excels, including biology and chemical technology, health technology, nursing care, optometry, rehabilitation sciences, linguistics and the social sciences.
Researchers from the PolyU Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, Faculty of Humanities, Faculty of Science and School of Design are among those awarded funding to develop innovative and impactful solutions, aiming at enhancing the quality of medical and mental healthcare.
Their ground-breaking research addresses pressing health issues and offer innovative solutions that benefit individuals across all age groups. The projects cover a broad spectrum of subjects, including cognitive and physical training for older adults, early detection of postpartum depression, adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, Parkinson’s disease, autism disorder and system-biology analytics for schizophrenia. Other projects focus on advancing medical progress in critical disease in areas such as liver cancer radiotherapy and palliative care.
In the field of eye health, projects encompass myopia control, development of an anti-glaucoma agent and development of drugs for antibiotic and infection treatment. Moreover, specific projects aim to support caregivers by enhancing their mental health care services while also meeting the needs of patients.
Prof. Christopher CHAO, Vice President (Research and Innovation), said, “The funded projects showcase PolyU’s prowess in impactful research, leveraging the University’s strength in interdisciplinary studies. These 27 studies encompass diverse medical and mental facets of human needs, spanning from diagnosis to treatment, prevention, recovery, and both physical and psychological care. This unique breadth of expertise highlights the University’s longstanding excellence in these fields.”
Effective clinical diagnosis and analysis
Effective clinical diagnosis and analysis have been advanced through the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, such as deep learning and machine learning. Professor Weixong ZHANG, Chair Professor of Bioinformatics and Integrative Genomics at the Department of Health Technology and Informatics, leads the project “Subtyping and Diagnosis of Schizophrenia by Systems-biology Analytics.” AI technologies are used to integrate genomic and neuroimaging data to understand disease etiology and subtypes of schizophrenia for personalised medicine.
Accurate measurement of tumour motion and volume for better radiotherapy planning is initiated in the project “Investigation of a Deep Learning-empowered 4D multi-parametric MRI (4D-mpMRI) Technique for Liver Cancer Radiotherapy in a Prospective Clinical Trial.” Led by Dr Tian LI, Research Assistant Professor of the Department of Health Technology and Informatics, the project aims to enhance the image quality and clinical efficacy of 4D-mpMRI radiotherapy technique.
Physical and mental wellbeing management
Technology plays a crucial role in rehabilitation management. Autism spectrum disorder remains a highly disabling condition with no cure. Recently, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a non-invasive neuromodulation technique, has shown promise as a treatment to reduce core symptoms in patients with autism. Dr Yvonne Ming Yee HAN, Associate Professor of the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences leads the project “Cumulative and Booster Effects of Multisession Prefrontal Transcranial Direct-current Stimulation on Cognitive and Social Impairments in Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” The project aims to study the long-term efficacy of tDCS for improving the cognitive and social functions of individuals with autism.
Online acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) education can improve mental wellbeing of teenagers with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis and their parents. Dr Yu Lok WONG, Associate Professor of the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences leads the project “Effectiveness of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Versus Active Controls in Improving Psychological Functions of Parents and Children with Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis: A Randomized Controlled Trial” which aims to identify the benefits of ACT.
Creative technologies have been applied to enhance the efficacy of physical and mental treatment in both clinical and community settings. Dr Shanshan WANG, Research Assistant Professor of the School of Nursing, leads the project “Effects of e-bibliotherapy on the Psychological Wellbeing of Informal Caregivers of People with Dementia: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” An e-bibliotherapy app/manual has been developed to improve the psychological wellbeing and health-related quality of life for caregivers.
Integration of the traditional exercise Qigong and VR-based training is introduced in the project “A VR-based Real-time Interactive Tutoring System for Qigong Training among Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment and Their Familial Caregivers: A Feasibility Study.” The project is led by Dr Hailiang WANG, Assistant Professor of the School of Design, and aims to design an innovative VR-based Qigong exercise platform for older adults to delay the progressive course of dementia.
Infection management and antibiotic drug development
The management of infections and development of antibiotic drugs have long been important areas of focus in medicine. Prof. Sheng CHEN, Head of the Department of Food Science and Nutrition and Chair Professor of Microbiology leads the project “Development of Bithionol Analogues as β-Lactamase Inhibitor for Clinical Treatment of Infections Caused by Enterobacteriaceae Strains Carrying Class B1 Metallo-β-Lactamases.” The objective of this project is to develop drug candidates for the treatment of infections.
Dr Wing Leung WONG, Assistant Professor of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology, leads the project “Investigation of Unnatural Amino Acid-based Diseleno Derivatives as the Target-specific Covalent Inhibitor of New Delhi Metallo-β-lactamase-1 (NDM-1).” The aim of this project is to combat antibiotic resistance in bacteria, particularly superbugs.
Preventive measures in optometry
Research in primary eye care is of fundamental importance in protecting vision and preventing eye-related disease in the long-term. Dr Chi- wai DO, Associate Professor of the School of Optometry leads the project “Characterization of Baicalein, a Natural Molecule, as Anti-glaucoma Agent.” The project is conducting research on baicalein, a natural molecule, to examine its therapeutic significance in treating glaucoma, a sight-threatening eye disease.
Focusing on myopia control in school-children, Dr Ka Man CHUN, Research Assistant Professor of the School of Optometry leads the project “Combination Effect of Optical Defocus and Low Dose Atropine in Myopia Control – A Randomized Clinical Trial.” The project combines optical and pharmaceutical intervention to control the progression of myopia in schoolchildren.
The Health and Medical Research Fund (HMRF) was established by the Health Bureau in 2011. It aims to build research capacity and to encourage, facilitate and support health and medical research to inform health policies, improve population health, strengthen the health system, enhance healthcare practices, advance the standard and quality of care, and promote clinical excellence, through the generation and application of evidence-based scientific knowledge in health and medicine. In addition to health and medical research, the HMRF also provides support for health promotion projects, research infrastructure and research capacity building initiatives.
Click here for details of the 27 funded projects.