Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a heartbreaking reality for millions across the world. It is degenerative and incurable, often creating a heavy burden to the patients’ caretakers and families.
Internationally renowned neuroscientist Prof Nancy Ip and her team at HKUST are leading the global effort in addressing the urgent need for innovative therapies to curb the illness. Through her seminal discoveries on the molecular mechanisms of neural development and synaptic plasticity, she has significantly advanced the understanding of how the brain develops and functions under normal and pathological conditions, providing important clues for drug development of AD and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Some of Prof Ip’s groundbreaking studies over the years include the discovery of the cell surface receptor proteins EphA4 (identified as a key player in AD pathology) and interleukin (IL)-33 (a protein that can reduce cognitive decline and to be potentially developed as an effective treatment for AD). Research efforts are also directed at identifying drug leads from traditional Chinese herbs, e.g. gou teng (Uncaria rhynchophylla). Most recently, she and her team have successfully used stem cells and genome-editing technologies to identify new AD genetic risk factors in the Chinese population.
Prof Ip has been awarded large-scale competitive grants from both local and national funding agencies. The study using stem cells to explore ethnic Chinese Alzheimer’s patients is supported by the Theme-based Research (TBR) Scheme and the Innovation and Technology Commission in Hong Kong, as well as the National Basic Research Program (973 Program) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China. Concurrently, Prof Ip is leading a project funded under The Areas of Excellence (AoE) Scheme, which focuses on the underlying cellular mechanisms of learning and memory. Successful completion of these projects will bring the world a step closer to making Alzheimer’s Disease a thing of the past.