background & aims
Our Research Laboratory is going to bring synergy among researchers in the Department of Paediatrics in CUHK and in the Department of Pediatrics in UMC Utrecht together by sharing the technical advantage of having human respiratory epithelial cell and tissue culture models as well as the 3D human airway spheroid model to address questions in regard to the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and Rhinovirus (RV) infections.
The establishment will allow the access to grant application opportunities in European Union and vice versa open up the China’s research funding to our collaborators in UMC Utrecht.
The Need of Joint Research Laboratory
Respiratory disease is one of the main causes of death in China. The growing of smoker population and the worsen air pollution in terms of severity and frequency highlight the pressing needs in conducting research in respiratory diseases. The advancement in the prevention and treatment of respiratory disease are important to ensure the quality of life. Respiratory disease includes respiratory infectious diseases caused by microbes and it also refers to chronic respiratory morbidity including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) and lung cancer.
As a mission in improving paediatric health, our group interests in better understand the respiratory viral infection in children, since it is the top reason for hospitalization in Hong Kong. The biological interaction between virus infection and the chronic respiratory co-morbidity, such as the history of allergic rhinitis and asthma, is also the major research question that our Joint Research Laboratory is going to explore.
In Hong Kong, the influenza virus infection is heavily studied and well funded under the Areas of Excellence (AoE) and Theme-based Research (TRS) Scheme by the University Grants Committee. Meanwhile, the research in RSV and RV infections and the associated disease exacerbations were often neglected albeit these viruses exert disease burdens with equal significance. Therefore, the Joint Research Laboratory is going to bring together the expertise in respiratory virology, allergy, immunology and respiratory epithelial cell biology together and answer questions specific to RSV and RV infection and the associated clinical manifestations.
Studying in vivo effects of RSV and RV pathogenesis is currently limited to scarce histopathological specimens ofhuman post-mortem airway tissue and several animal models. It is incompletely understood how RSV and RV interacts with its host cells and unknown how RSV spreads through the airways causing the characteristic patchy lung inflammation and how RV remodels the airways and causing chronic outcomes. Because of the lack of RV-C receptor expression in standard cell lines, the isolation and propagation of such virus is challenging, and therefore making the basic research of RV-C incomplete. This lack of understanding seriously hampers the development of urgently needed RSV and RV therapeutics.
Our Joint Research Laboratory is keen to address unmet medical needs and focus more on translational research, striving to apply basic research discoveries to effectively prevent and treat respiratory diseases.