Ms Lim Sheau Yng: Winner of the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine Best Graduate Research Publication Award 2019 - NUS Medical Sciences Cluster

Sheau Yng’s scientific journey started in 2012 when she worked as a research assistant in Associate Professor Veronique Angeli’s laboratory.  In 2017, she received the Singaporean Society for Immunology (SgSI) travel award for her conference presentation titled “The Origin and Maintenance of LYVE-1-Expressing Macrophages” at the Keystone Symposia on Mononuclear Phagocytes in Health, Immune Defense and Disease Meeting. In April 2019, Ms Lim Sheau Yng completed her PhD oral defense. Currently, she is a postdoctoral fellow under the Life Science Institute (LSI) Immunology Programme in Associate Professor Angeli’s laboratory.

Recently, she received the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine Best Graduate Research Publication Award. Her co-authored paper “Hyaluronan Receptor LYVE-1-Expressing Macrophages Maintain Arterial Tone through Hyaluronan-Mediated Regulation of Smooth Muscle Cell Collagen” was published in Immunity.

(From left to right) Ms Lim Sheau Yng, A/Prof Veronqiue Angeli and Dr Lim Hwee Ying
(From left to right) Ms Lim Sheau Yng, A/Prof Veronqiue Angeli and Dr Lim Hwee Ying

Her scientific findings and achievements

Studies have shown that changes in arterial tone could have an effect on the arterial mechanical function. The phenomenon of arterial stiffening leads to raised blood pressure and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis. However, the causes of arterial stiffening remained largely unknown. In this project, Sheau Yng and her team had identified a population of cells called macrophages that coat the outer walls of healthy arteries and express a lymphatic protein called LYVE-1. LYVE-1 protein on the macrophages binds to the hyaluronan expressed on smooth muscle cells. This interaction is required for the degradation of collagen by an enzyme called matrix metalloproteinase 9 (MMP-9). The maintenance of collagen content in arterial wall is important to keep the blood vessels supple. In summary, they discovered that macrophages contribute to the blood vessel tissue homeostasis by modulating the collagen deposition.

In March 2019, Sheau Yng and team also co-authored a paper in Science titled “Two distinct interstitial macrophage populations coexist across tissues in specific subtissular niches” in collaboration with Dr Florent Ginhoux from Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN), A*STAR.

Her challenge

Her main challenge was to decipher how macrophages, a population of specialised immune cells, play a role in the arterial structural changes.

Her mentor

Associate Professor Angeli is a caring, patient and insightful mentor. She provided professional and emotional guidance to support Sheau Yng’s journey as a PhD student. Furthermore, Associate Professor Angeli feels that gaining international credentials will add value to a researcher’s portfolio. Hence, she often encourages Sheau Yng to attend conferences and present her work if given the opportunity.

Her next step

Moving on from this project, Sheau Yng and team will explore the functional roles of macrophages in cardiovascular ageing and investigate the ways to rejuvenate these macrophages during ageing.

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