Newsletter No. 175

2 No. 175 19th December 2000 CUHK Newsletter Financial Support for Research Act ivi t ies Four research projects of the University have recently attracted funding support from different quarters: • Mental Health Service Users' Experience o fDiscrimination i nHong Kong (HK$495,000) Sponsor: Equal Opportunities Commission Principal investigator: Prof. Lee Sing (Department of Psychiatry) • Augmented Reality System fo rEndoscopic Surgery Simulation and Operations (HK$700,000) Sponsors: National Natural Science Foundation of China and Research Grants Council Principal investigator: Prof. Ann Heng Pheng (Department of Computer Science and Engineering) • Advanced Knowledge Discovery and Spatial-temporal Visualization fo rGeoreferenced Information (HK$480,000) Sponsors: National Natural Science Foundation of China and Research Grants Council Principal investigator: Prof. Sun Hanqiu (Department of Computer Science and Engineering) • Applications and Mechanisms o fPhotochemical Oxidation o f Persistent Organic Pollutants (HK$550,000) Sponsors: National Natural Science Foundation of China and Research Grants Council Principal investigator: Prof. Yu Chai-mei (Department of Chemistry) Paediatrician Discusses Differences in Learning D r. Mel Levine, director o f the Clinical Center fo r the Study o f Development and Learning and professor of paediatrics a t the University of North Carolina a t Chapel Hill, gave a Lee Hysan Education Lecture at the University on 24th November. Entitled 'Understanding the Underachievement of Our Underachievers—Successful Approaches for Handling Differences i n Learning', the lecture was organized by the Faculty of Education and the Hong Kong Institute of Educational Research. Dr. Levine is an internationally acclaimed developmental paediatrician and a pioneer in the field o f learning differences. He is also the founder of All Kinds of Minds, a non-profit institute for the study o f differences in learning. Hear tFailur e th eSubjec t o f an Inaugura l Lectur e W hile cardiac diseases such as coronary artery disease and stroke are decreasing markedly through better prevention an d treatment, the incidence of heart failure i s still on the rise. Heart failure is a progressive disease with a poor outcome. Prognosis for those with the severest form of the condition is 40 to 50 per cent mortality annually. Although there have been considerable advances in treatment over the last two decades, mortality figures are still comparable to those of most cancers. In his professorial inaugural lecture entitled 'Heart Failure— the New Epidemic Insights from the Three Continents', Prof. John Sanderson, professor of medicine and therapeutics and head of the Division of Cardiology, discussed similarities and differences of the disease i n the three continents where he had worked and studied heart failure, namely Europe, Africa, and Asia. He also demonstrated the central importance of maintenance of blood pressure in any living organism to prevent heart failure. Hypertension, the commonest cause of heart failure, particularly among women in Hong Kong, was also examined. The lecture was delivered on 30th November at the Prince o f Wales Hospital. CUHK Installs Hong Kong's First MRI Machine for Probing the Heart T he Department of Diagnostic Radiology and Organ Imaging o f the Faculty of Medicine recently introduced an advanced MRI scanner, th e first i n Hong Kong that i s specially dedicated t o cardiovascular examination. I t is expected to make examination o f the cardiovascular system easier, safer, and more accurate, and hence, greatly enhance the diagnosis and prevention of heart diseases, and facilitate related research. Unlike old MRI machines, the new machine has ahigh gradient which allows examination t o be completed within a short time. During MRI examination, the patient only needs to lie still, and the MRI scanner wi ll complete the whole procedure i n 6 0 minutes without causing any pain. The procedure is totally non-invasive and involves no irradiation. Different information about heart functions and morphology can be obtained i n one examination. Doctors can detect the presence of myocardial infarction, observe myocardial contraction and areas of poor function, and measure the physiological function of the heart. With the administration of intravenous contrast, the machine can also be used for imaging coronary arteries, detecting any stenosis in the main arteries. The machine is particularly useful for patients with suspected myocardial infarction related t o heart attack or heart failure, or those suffering from angina attack but are unwilling to have conventional invasive angiography. The machine was officially launched on 2nd December at the Prince of Wales Hospital. A live demonstration of the examination was also staged on the occasion. CUHK To Build World's First Chinese Brain Bank D ementia is a major medical and social problem threatening modern societies. I t is estimated that five per cent of the elderly population aged 65 or above suffer from moderate or severe intellectual deterioration. There is still no cure for dementia and studies on the condition among Chinese are scant. The Faculty o f Medicine, which has had a history o f extensive research on the clinical as well as brain and genetic aspects of the disease, is now setting up a Chinese Brain Bank that will collect and study brain tissue in an attempt to understand dementia. When completed, the brain bank will be the only one of its kind in the world. The Faculty o f Medicine also operates a Brain Disease Laboratory, the only laboratory i n Hong Kong that undertakes studies about the Apolipoprotein E gene, the gene that is believed t o make one susceptible to dementia. New Therapyto Reverse Congenital Foetal Abnormalities I n every 100 cases of pregnancy, there will be an average o f two foetuses with congenital foetal abnormalities. Usually the mother will request termination of pregnancy. The alternative is a distressful pregnancy which may end up in an unhealthy child. Medical advances has made possible in-utero therapy for foetuses with congenital abnormalities. I n the past three years, the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology has performed many interventions of this kind and improved the outcome and survival rate of these babies. The Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology introduced in-utero therapy to the public on 23rd November. A mother whose baby was found to have primary pleural effusion, which hinders the normal development of the lungs, was present to share her experience with this therapy. Her baby is now one year old and healthy. Hongkongers Severely Affected by Irritable Bowels A n in-depth study on how the irritable bowel syndrome affects Hong Kong citizens reveal that the sufferers' quality of life is adversely affected by the disease and the annual health care cost related to the disease is some $170 million. The first systematic study of its kind, the project was conducted by the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics and the Department of Community and Family Medicine earlier this year. The study interviewed 1,078 Sha Tin residents at home using a specially designed questionnaire. As many as 44 per cent of the subjects had had irritable bowel syndrome some time in their lives. The rates were highest among men in professional, managerial, and sales occupations. Female manual workers were also commonly affected. Among the sufferers, 10 per cent had symptoms throughout the year. They had poor general health, and felt depressed, tired, and lethargic most of the time. Many could not participate normally in social functions. According to the survey report released on 4th December, more public health education is needed to increase awareness of the condition, and early medical consultation is recommended.