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Manipulating bone tissue regeneration by bivalent cations

Department of Orthopaedics & Traumatology

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Dr K Yeung Applications accepted all year round Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Bone healing or repair is a biological process that can take weeks to months and patients suffering from bone fractures usually need extended time off work and away from normal activities. In particular, as baby boomers age, osteoporosis and fractures related to fragile bones is becoming a major problem needing urgent attention. There have been many attempts to enhance bone repair by mechanical means such as insertion of metallic implants and biological means such as the use of growth factors. Although anti-catabolic drugs can indirectly induce bone formation by suppressing the osteoclastic activity, atypical bone fractures have been documented sometime when this drug is prescribed to patients for a prolonged period of time. This phenomenon may be attributed to over-suppression of bone turnover that alters the bone strength, thereby compromising the mechanical properties. As many such treatments are accompanied by potential complications, there is extensive search in identifying a safer, more economical, and faster method to enhance bone formation and repair.

Bivalent cations e.g., magnesium has been shown to stimulate bone growth and healing by regulating the osteoblast, osteoclast and macrophage activity. Mg is also actively involved in the mineralization process which controls bone formation and resorption. However, an excessively high concentration of magnesium is detrimental to osteoblasts and even prevents the formation of the bone extracellular matrix. While Mg ions are naturally found in the human body, it is still unclear why a particular local concentration of Mg is important to the regulation of osteogenesis. Hence, our research team has studied the effects of different concentrations of magnesium on various cell lines including osteoblasts, chondrocytes, and mesenchymal stem cells. The results demonstrate that a specific dosage of magnesium can significantly up-regulate the cellular activities in the cell lines monitored. Hence, our team develops various implantable cation-based bio-composites that enable precise controlled release of magnesium to convince in-situ bone formation. We believe that these discoveries will open up an exciting prospect of using bivalent cations in bone regeneration. This process is potentially cheaper, simpler, and safer than other current approaches.

Kelvin Yeung has been passionate about applied orthopaedic biomaterial research and translation for more than 20 years. His major research areas are the development of orthopedic biomaterials, antibacterial coatings, 3D bio-printing and musculoskeletal tissue engineering. He trained as a materials scientist for his bachelor’s degree and then as an orthopedic scientist in HKU Medical Faculty for his master’s degree and his Ph.D.

He is currently tenured associate professor in the Department of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, The University of Hong Kong. His h-index is 41 (Scopus) with more than 5,800 citations. He has been ranked in the World’s Top 1% of Scientists in the field of biomaterials by Clarivate Analytics’ Essential Science Indicators (ESI) from 2014 to 2018. In addition to publishing 217 peer-reviewed SCI journal papers and filing 38 full patents in various countries, he co-founded OrthoSmart Limited with two senior colleagues to adapt their research findings for clinical use. He currently serves as interim CEO of this startup company. Furthermore, he has been invited to act as a consultant for several medical device and biomaterial corporations.

During these years, he participated in local and regional competitions and received a number of awards and scholarships, including the Young Scientist Award 2005 and the Young Engineer Award 2009. For projects in which he has acted in the capacity of principal investigator or co-principal investigator, he has received over HK$57,170,000. Since 2006, he has supervised 14 Ph.D. and 8 M.Phil. students. Furthermore, he has received 19 prizes and awards from local and international competitions and conferences. He has also been invited to deliver 74 plenary lectures, keynotes or invited talks at international and regional conferences.

Supervisor’s information webpage link: http://hub.hku.hk/cris/rp/rp00309

Faculty information, funding opportunities and application deadlines: https://www.findaphd.com/phds/program/biomedical-research-hku-li-ka-shing-faculty-of-medicine/?i586p4119
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