Education and Research Highlights - NUS Medical Sciences Cluster


National Medical Research Council (NMRC) Awards 2019

We would like to extend our heartiest congratulations to 2 colleagues from the Medical Sciences Cluster, NUS Medicine who received awards at the NMRC Awards 2019!


Quick thinking? It’s all down to timing

Synaptic plasticity, which underlies learning and memory, involves the strengthening and weakening of synapses. This process is affected by the relative timing of spikes in electrical activity in the pre- and postsynaptic neurons. Researchers at NUS Medicine have now found that, when both spikes occur simultaneously (or within tens of milliseconds of each other), the synapses were strengthened for up to 4 hours. These findings could impact research in conditions with impaired learning and memory.


A ray of hope for organ transplant patients

A collaborative study led by Prof A. Vathsala and Assoc Prof Paul MacAry on organ recipient immune system interaction with transplanted organ offers new insights into chronic organ rejection.


Singapore scientists further unravel ALS mystery in groundbreaking new work

A five-year study led by Dr Ling Shuo-Chien from NUS Medicine's Department of Physiology has revealed that neighbouring cells known as oligodendrocytes also participate in the spread of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Prior to the study, it was widely believed that ALS only affected motor nerve cells. This will help scientists better understand ALS, leading to the possibility of an eventual treatment for the condition


Killer Heat

The risk of heat stress could increase as heat waves become more common due to climate change. 
Associate Professor Jason Lee from NUS Medicine’s Department of Physiology provides insights into the effects of humidity on the human body in Channel NewsAsia series: Why It Matters 2. 



Researchers at the National University of Singapore’s Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (NUS Medicine) have discovered a small man-made molecule that can activate a receptor in the cell membrane to “kill” tumour cells in melanoma skin cancer, controlling the growth of the cancer cells. This process is activated once the molecule is injected into the body. The small molecule NSC49652 will bind to a death receptor p75NTR in the cell membrane, starting a process which then causes melanoma cells to die.The research team comprises scientists from NUS Medicine’ Department of Physiology, NUS’ Department of Pharmacy and Life Sciences Institute, University of Calgary’s Cunming School of Medicine, as well as University of Virginia’s Department of Chemical Engineering.


Scientists have found a new way in which bacteria evolve, one they believe is at least 1,000 times more efficient than any currently known mechanism. The insights will help scientists to better understand how dangerous bacteria can rapidly evolve and become increasingly virulent and antibiotic resistant.

Assistant Professor John Chen from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (NUS Medicine) said “Phages are by far the most abundant biological entities on the planet, and the importance of genetic transduction as one of the principle drivers of microbial evolution has never been more apparent than with the discovery of lateral transduction.”


Associate Professor Lim Kah Leong receives the distinguished 2018 President's Science Award for ground breaking work in Parkinson's Disease

We would like to extend our heartiest congratulations to Associate Professor Lim Kah Leong for receiving the 2018 President’s Science Award! This is the highest accolade for top research scientists and engineers for their outstanding contributions to the scientific community in Singapore. Associate Prof Lim is part of a quartet studying Parkinson’s Disease, where they had successfully created the world’s first live human midbrain in a laboratory. The award winning team consists of Professor Tan Eng King and Associate Professor Louis Tan Chew Seng from the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) and Professor Ng Huck Hui from the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS).


New saliva kit can detect HFMD cases before symptoms appear

Researchers at the National University of Singapore have developed a test kit that could soon allow children to be tested for hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) at home or at their childcare centres - with just their saliva - even before symptoms appear.

The researchers say the test kit allows for faster results, at greater accuracy and a cheaper price.


Key to artery health lies in LYVE-1 Macrophage

A team of researchers at National University of Singapore’s Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (NUS Medicine), led by Associate Professor Veronique Angeli, has identified a population of cells called macrophages that coat the outer walls of healthy arteries and express a protein called LYVE-1. The researchers found that when these cells were absent, arteries accumulate collagen and lose their elasticity, becoming stiff and inflexible. These findings suggested that the macrophages protect our arteries from becoming stiff, a concept that the team proceeded to prove. They showed that the macrophages interact with another type of cell residing in the artery called smooth muscle cells, which produce collagen. The interaction between the two types of cell reduces production of collagen by the smooth muscle cells.


Life sciences grad, 22, has come up with software that accelerates analysis

Mr Aditya Nair has developed software that could massively help the research of Parkinson's disease around the world. His software also found a new type of nerve cell. And he is 22 years old.

Yet the life sciences graduate from the National University of Singapore (NUS) never imagined he would end up a developer of technology when he first began his studies here. As with all scientific endeavour, however, Mr Nair began with a problem.

wil @ nus lab banner_0

Driving innovation in food and biochemical production

A new $110 million research facility jointly established by NUS, Asia’s leading agribusiness group Wilmar International Limited (Wilmar), and the National Research Foundation Singapore (NRF) was launched on 19 June. The WIL@NUS Corporate Laboratory will conduct cutting-edge clinical nutrition and synthetic biology research to address the need for healthier food products and ingredients, as well as lead the way for greener and more sustainable biochemical production.


Eat Well, Live Strong

We are what we eat, or fail to eat. Assistant Professor Faidon Magkos, Department of Physiology and Professor Brian Kennedy (Director, Centre for Healthy Ageing, National University Health System) explain why nutrition plays such a key role in healthy ageing.

Sensible dietary choices with respect to quality and quantity, but also the maintenance of a physically active lifestyle, and avoidance of tobacco in any form, are all important components of a healthy lifestyle that can help achieve and maintain good health with advancing age. Eating a healthy diet may not always be easy, but it is worth it when it comes to enhancing healthspan and lifespan.


NUS scientists discover a new way to control blood pressure

New and better ways to fight hypertension and other related health issues like stroke, diabetes and heart diseases may be in the offing, thanks to the National University of Singapore (NUS) scientists’ discovery of how our blood pressure is controlled.

The team showed that Galectin-1, a protein in our body, influences the function of another protein known as L-type (Cav1.2) calcium channel found on the arteries that normally acts to contract the blood vessels. By reducing the activity of these calcium channels, Galectin-1 is able to lower blood pressure.

This project was led by Professor Soong Tuck Wah from the Department of Physiology together with Dr Hu Zhenyu, the lead author of the study. It takes medical science a step closer toward fighting cardiovascular disorders, which are serious global healthcare issues.


NUS researchers unveil mystery behind workings of blood cells

In the landmark study, Dr Nguyen’s team, including postdoctoral fellow Dr Thiet Vu, found that the absence of a transport protein namely, Mfsd2b, in hematopoietic cells such as erythrocytes and platelets is linked to low levels of S1P in the blood. This resulted in abnormally low numbers of T and B cells, and increased sensitivity to anaphylactic shock, a severe allergic reaction. Their breakthrough findings pave the way for the manipulation of S1P levels in the blood for the treatment of inflammatory and vascular diseases. The team also found that a lack of Mfsd2b is linked to low red blood cell counts and sensitivities to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. This suggests that increasing plasma S1P levels could be beneficial to cancer patients receiving chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments.


Cracking the mystery of flu transmission

New and more effective flu medicines could be in the offing after researchers from NUS Medicine were able to discover how flu viruses infect people.

The finding was made by a multidisciplinary team led by Assistant Professor Thai Tran from the Department of Physiology, Professor Wang De Yun of the Department of Otolaryngology and Associate Professor Vincent Chow from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. Using the protein called CD151, the team showed that flu viruses can hijack a unique class of proteins which are part of the body’s (host) respiratory cellular machinery. The viruses clone and multiply in the body before invading and colonising new victims while multiplying further in the bodies of infected individuals.


Found - Protein Used by Virus to Infect Central Nervous System in Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

The mechanisms by which EV71 infects and replicates in the CNS are not well known and have been the subject of much active research. Earlier this year, researchers at NUS Medicine were the first to identify the host protein, prohibitin (PHB), that is exploited by EV71 to infect and replicate in the CNS.


Recreating Liver Tumours as Organoids for Faster, More Accurate Drug Screening

Led by Dr Eliza Fong and Dr Toh Tan Boon, an interdisciplinary team of researchers at the NUS Departments of Physiology and Biomedical Engineering, the Cancer Science Institute of Singapore, the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, A*STAR and the National Cancer Centre Singapore has now devised a new method to grow PDX liver cancer cells in culture

House Dust Mites Cause DNA Damage and Cell Death in Lung, Worsening Asthma

Asthma affects 300 million people globally, with 250,000 people dying from it every year. The house dust mite (HDM) is a major cause of allergic asthma, with approximately 50% to 80% of asthmatic patients found to be allergic to HDM. Approximately 0.3 mm in size, as many as 2 million dust mites can infest an average-sized mattress.

Found - Tumour Suppressor That May Lead to More Accurate Prognoses, New Treatments for Childhood Neuroblastoma

Neuroblastoma is a rare but aggressive cancer that affects immature nerve cells in the sympathetic nervous system in infants and young children. The system comprises nerve cells and fibres that control body functions such as heart rate and digestion.

Cancer Immunotherapy

Using the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells has been a focus of intense research for several decades, but recent breakthroughs in the field have moved immunotherapy to the forefront of new cancer treatments. This article about antibodies that release “checkpoints” in immune cells marks the first in a series about different types of cancer immunotherapy.

Cellular Immunotherapy

In this second installment of the Cancer Immunotherapy series, we delve into cellular immunotherapy, which involves harnessing the power of immune cells to attack cancer cells.

Microbiological warfare in the gut

In a new article published online in Nature Communications on 12 April 2017, Associate Professor Matthew Chang’s team has demonstrated for the first time that engineered probiotic E. coli bacteria can sense and kill disease-causing bacteria in the gut of animals.

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