Big steps at CUHK in tackling

Local | Cindy Wan 12 Apr 2019

The Chinese University of Hong Kong has set up a new research center for Parkinson's disease.

The university's Faculty of Medicine inaugurated the Margaret K L Cheung Research Centre for Management of Parkinsonism yesterday. That happened with a donation of HK$10 million from benefactor Margaret Cheung Kam-ling.

Parkinson's disease has a cluster of symptoms that primarily include slow movement, stiffness, tremors and instability.

The newly established center will conduct trans-disciplinary research for discovering therapeutics for preventing or slowing the progression of the disease.

Established along with the research center is a registry for Chinese patients who are at early stages of Parkinson's and the relatad cerebral small vessel disease.

There are 12,000 people with Parkinson's disease in Hong Kong and 1.7 million in the mainland. The prevalence for cerebral small vessel disease is even higher, affecting around one third of elderly people in Hong Kong.

Zhang Jihui, an assistant professor in CUHK's Department of Psychiatry, said the center aims to develop precise biomarkers and diagnostics to understand genetic and other causative factors with data collected by the registry.

For instance, REM Sleep Behavioral Disorder is one of the earliest symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Ninety percent of people with this disorder will develop Parkinson's disease within 15 years.

The center also aims to predict and monitor disease progression from the early stages of Parkinson's in the Chinese population through the registry, Zhang said.

Additionally, the research center is also equipped with the SAR's first custom-built multiphoton microscope to study the cause and development of cerebral small vessel disease.

Owen Ko Ho, associate director of the center, said the device allows researchers to measure the neuronal and neurovascular changes in animals. That means a researcher can observe the changes in the nerve cells and blood vessels of animals to understand more about cerebral small vessel disease.

Chan Wai Yee, pro-vice-chancellor of CUHK, said the establishment of the center is timely given the expected increase of Parkinson's disease with an aging society.

Benefactor Cheung has high hopes, saying she hopes to see research breakthroughs.

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