Hong Kong Baptist UniversityNew hope for treating Parkinson’s disease

New hope for treating Parkinson’s disease

A research team from Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) has invented a nanostructure which can stimulate the differentiation of neural stem cells without the use of chemical growth factors. The discovery, published in the academic journal Advanced Science, lays the foundation for research into stem cell therapies and offers hope of a new treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease arises from the degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra, a complex and critical region of the brain. Stem cell therapy, one of the most promising potential treatments, involves cultivating stem cells for differentiation into new and healthy cells, tissues or organs which can then be transplanted into the human body to replace damaged or dead cells. However, conventional culturing techniques can increase the risk of developing tumours.

Led by Professor Ken Yung of the Department of Biology and Dr Jeffery Huang of the Department of Physics, the research team developed a nanozigzag matrix that can induce the rapid and specific differentiation of neural stem cells into miniature substantia nigra-like structures (mini-SNLSs). These mini-SNLSs, which are mainly composed of dopaminergic neurons, can replace the damaged or degenerated cells in the substantia nigra region of the brain. In laboratory tests with mini-SNLSs in a rat model, the results showed an early and progressive improvement of Parkinson’s disease in rats in vivo.


There are trillions of nanozigzag structures on the surface of the nanomatrix.

The HKBU team has been granted a US patent for the nanozigzag matrix, which also provides promising insights into the differentiation of other functional cells.

“By varying the stiffness, density and arrangement of the nanozigzags, or the shape of the matrix layer, the neural stem cells can be differentiated into different desirable functional cells,” said Professor Yung. “The invention has shown great potential for the treatment of other incurable diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and certain types of cancer.”


Dr Jeffery Huang (left) and Professor Ken Yung

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Faculty of Science
Department of Biology
Department of Physics

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