According to the World Health Organisation, at least 61 per cent of all human pathogens are zoonotic – meaning that they can be transmitted from animals to humans. They also represent 75 per cent of all emerging pathogens during the past decade. Globalisation, in particular cross-border travel and trade, has increased the risk of zoonotic disease transmission. City University of Hong Kong’s adoption and promotion of a “One Health” approach to the design and implementation of measures to safeguard public health has, therefore, become more important than ever.
In response to this global challenge, CityU has highlighted One Health as one of its overarching strategic themes. Its aim is to develop and integrate interdisciplinary, problem-based research collaboration in all aspects of health-related issues.
First internationally recognised veterinary school in the region
With the establishment of the Jockey Club College of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences, CityU aims to pioneer excellence in veterinary research and education locally, regionally and globally, spotlighting public health, food safety, animal welfare and aquatic animal health for the well-being of society.
Recent research related to zoonotic diseases and public health includes the development of a dynamic model for estimating optimal vaccination coverage for eliminating peste des petits ruminants (PPR), also known as goat plague; the role of free-grazing ducks in the spread of avian influenza in Vietnam; and the risk factors of tuberculosis-related mortality in wild meerkats.
Breakthroughs in biomedical sciences and engineering research
On the biomedical sciences and engineering side, CityU researchers have achieved a number of research breakthroughs. Professor Li Ying, of the department of biomedical sciences, has discovered an important substance released by astrocytes – star-shaped glial cells in the central nervous system, which can improve decision-making performance. The discovery was published in the journal Cell Reports.
Collaborative research by teams, led by Dr Li Minh and Dr Shi Jiahai, both assistant professors in the department of biomedical sciences, led to the creation of a new, efficient strategy for producing drug carriers for treating cancers. This promising mechanism enables the production of highly pure extracellular vesicles from red blood cells in large quantities and at one-hundredth of the usual cost. The findings were published in the journal Nature Communications.
A research team led by Professor Sun Dong, head of the department of biomedical engineering, developed the world’s first magnetic 3D-printed microscopic robot, which can carry cells to precise locations in live animals. The invention could revolutionise cell-based therapy and regenerative medicine, and provide more precise treatment for diseases such as cancer. It was published in the latest issue of the journal Science Robotics.