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Hong Kong, China

Li S.L.,University of Hong Kong | Lau Y.L.,University of Hong Kong | Yip P.S.F.,HKU | Fan S.Y.S.,Family Planning Association | Ip P.,University of Hong Kong
Vaccine | Year: 2013

Objectives: The study aims to determine HPV vaccine uptake (≥1 dose) amongst adolescent girls in Hong Kong and to explore the reasons for non-acceptance of the vaccine. Study design: A total of 1832 secondary school girls (15.5 ± 2.0 years) were randomly surveyed. Their HPV vaccine uptake was estimated, and their reasons for non-vaccination summarised. Results: A total of 131 (7.2%, 95% CI: 6.0-8.4%) adolescent girls had received the HPV vaccine (≥1 dose). Vaccine uptake was positively associated with a higher maternal education level and locally born status. Amongst the non-vaccinated girls, 20.6% had never heard of or knew little about the vaccine, 20.2% 'did not know where to receive', and 17.8% were concerned about the cost. Conclusions: The HPV vaccine uptake amongst adolescent girls in Hong Kong is very low. A school-based education and service programme is needed to improve uptake and prevent disparities in the Chinese population. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. Source

Wang X.S.,UMD | Nayak K.,UMD | Liu C.,UMD | Chan T.-H.H.,HKU | And 3 more authors.
Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security | Year: 2014

We design novel, asymptotically more efficient data structures and algorithms for programs whose data access patterns exhibit some degree of predictability. To this end, we propose two novel techniques, a pointer-based technique and a locality-based technique. We show that these two techniques are powerful building blocks in making data structures and algorithms oblivious. Specifically, we apply these techniques to a broad range of commonly used data structures, including maps, sets, priority-queues, stacks, deques; and algorithms, including a memory allocator algorithm, max-flow on graphs with low doubling dimension, and shortestpath distance queries on weighted planar graphs. Our oblivious counterparts of the above outperform the best known ORAM scheme both asymptotically and in practice. Copyright is held by the owner/author(s). Publication rights licensed to ACM. Source

Arabidopsis overexpressing AtPAP2 (Experimental) grow faster than control plants (Control) under both short and long days. Credit: The University of Hong Kong Do you feel the heat? According to NASA and NOAA, 2014 was the hottest year since 1880 and the 10 warmest years in the instrumental record have occurred since 1998. The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) of the United Nations confirmed in its Fifth Assessment Report that cumulative emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) largely determine global mean surface warming and predicted that by 2100, the global mean surface temperature may increase by 3.7 oC to 4.8oC over the average for 1850-1900 for a median climate response if there is no additional effort to reduce greenhouse gas emission is put in place. To alleviate the problem and slow down the rate of global warming, increasing the rate of CO2 absorption by plants or algae is one possible strategy. A research team led by Dr. Lim Boon-leong with his former PhD student Dr. Law Yee-song from the School of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science, the University of Hong Kong (HKU), has developed a new strategy to promote plant growth and seed yield by 38% to 57% in a model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, hence increasing CO2 absorption from the atmosphere. This technology may also have potential in boosting food production and thus could solve another danger of human civilization: food shortage due to overpopulation. According to the World Population Prospect of the United Nations in 2015, the global population will reach more than 9.7 billion by 2050, meaning a 57% increase since 2000. In this technology, the researchers have identified a plant-growth promoting gene, designated as "Purple acid phosphatase 2" (AtPAP2) from the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. AtPAP2 is dually targeted to two energy-generating organelles of plant cells: chloroplasts and mitochondria. Chloroplasts carry out photosynthesis, a process that fixes CO2 in atmosphere into sugars using solar energy. The sugars are then used for plant growth including cell wall, biomass and seeds, or consumed by mitochondria to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), an important energy source for many cellular processes. This is the first study of AtPAP2 in the world. The research team found that by dual expression of AtPAP2 on chloroplasts and mitochondria, the engineered plants can grow faster (see Figure 1) and produce 38% to 57% more seeds (see Figure 2). It is because AtPAP2 can modulate the import of a number of specific proteins into chloroplasts and mitochondria, and subsequently boost their capability to harvest solar energy and generate ATP. AtPAP2 is found to be the first protein that can modulate energy outputs from these two organelles simultaneously. Dr Lim have reported the findings in two international conferences, the 9th International Conference for Plant Mitochondrial Biology held in May 2015 in Poland and the 2nd FEBS Plant Organellar Signaling Workshop in September 2015 in Croatia, where Dr. Lim was the only speaker from Hong Kong and China respectively. This research has yielded eight research articles in journals including Plant Physiology, Biofuels and Biotechnology, as well as several patent applications with the assistance of Technology Transfer Office, HKU, and we wish the technology can be transformed into applications. Dr. Lim said: "We are happy to make this discovery which has aroused great interest from many plant scientists, as our research findings would allow plant scientists to study the impacts of high energy supply to various biological processes in plant cell, and to study how energy supply affects plants' abilities to cope with various biotic and abiotic stresses. However, it is just the beginning of a number of research projects, and funding support from the community is certainly essential for future discoveries."

News Article
Site: http://phys.org/chemistry-news/

Antimicrobial resistance is on the rise globally and has become a serious threat to human health. For instance, methicillin- resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has emerged as one of the most important pathogens, both in hospital (HA-MRSA) and community-acquired infections (CA-MRSA). It is considered one of the most important super-bugs in Hong Kong as it is extremely infectious and has a high mortality rate. To avoid further aggravation of resistance-related problems, misuse and overuse of antibiotics should be prevented to minimize the emergence of drug-resistant organisms. At the same time, development of novel antibacterial and anti-resistant agents should be actively pursued. Although there is an urgent public need for new antibacterial drugs, very few pharmaceutical companies are interested in investing in the development of these, due to the lower profit margin compared to medicines used to treat diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. That no new antibiotics have been introduced to the market over the last decade is evidence of this. To address this issue, researchers in academia should play a more active role in the search for new antimicrobial compounds. A team of researchers led by Dr Xuechen Li of the HKU Department of Chemistry, have taken up the responsibility and challenge and have been continuingly working on the development of new antibiotics for the past seven years. In 2013, they developed the first chemical synthesis of an antibiotic daptomycin, which enabled them to search for the next-generation daptomycin-based antibiotics. Recently, his team has had further success by developing a chemical strategy to synthesize another antibiotic, Teixobactin. Last year, the discovery of the antibiotic Teixobactin by researchers in the USA, was considered a breakthrough in antibacterial drug research (Nature, 2015, 517, 455). Teixobactin can kill a range of pathogens without detectable resistance, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE) and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. As promising as it is, Teixobactin is not perfect yet as a drug and can be further improved for its clinical properties via its structural modification. In the history of antibacterial drug development, modification of the lead compound has successfully led to many generations of improved penicillin-based antibiotics. Indeed, it is only through chemical synthesis and medicinal chemistry that one can flexibly modify the teixobactin structure to generate various teixobactin derivatives from simple materials. Thus, the development of a straetgy to chemically synthesize teixobactin and its derivatives has drawn a lot of attention with intense competition worldwide and more than 15 research groups from different countries have been striving to develop a chemical strategy to synthesize teixobactin. Collaborating with another chemist from University of Central Florida, USA, the HKU team became one of the fastest groups in the world to complete the chemical synthesis of teixobactin, from which they have also generated 10 teixobactin analogues with promising properties (US provisional patent filed). The strategy they developed is very efficient and can generate many teixobactin derivatives in a fast and combinatory manner. Now they are running at a full speed with an aim to synthesize more 100 different teixobactin derivatives within two years to search for analogues with improved pharmacological properties for the clinical development. Explore further: New approach sees breakthrough in antibiotics research More information: Kang Jin et al. Total synthesis of teixobactin, Nature Communications (2016). DOI: 10.1038/ncomms12394

News Article
Site: http://www.nature.com/nature/current_issue/

The visible face of intensive agriculture is supermarkets bulging with vegetables, meat and milk. Yet behind the scenes, as Science Gallery Dublin's latest exhibition reveals, factory farming's reliance on energy-intensive fertilizer manufacture and vast amounts of water raises big questions about sustainability. No one solution is on offer in Field Test, which is curated by the Center for Genomic Gastronomy, an artist-led global think tank devoted to imagining a more just, biodiverse food system. But visitors can feast on prototypes, research, revolutionary agronomy manifestos, innovative and imagined farm technologies and speculative cuisines. “We're asking how we can get more from less,” explains acting gallery director Lynn Scarff. Meat, for instance, is a Western penchant now spreading around the world. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that demand will increase by more than two-thirds over the next 40 years, despite sky-high costs — it takes 15,000 litres of water to produce a kilogram of beef. The curators' Farmstand Forecast looks at alternatives: attractively packaged insect-based foods, and historical 'miracle' crops such as breadfruit and Chlorella algae. An exhibition strand dubbed 'Farm Cyborgs' features animal-husbandry innovations including Silent Herdsman, a smart collar for tracking data on bovine health. Playing With Pigs: Pig Chase is a video game for alleviating porcine boredom, designed by researchers at the HKU University of the Arts Utrecht and the Wageningen University and Research Centre, both in the Netherlands. A pig uses its snout to manipulate a virtual ball on a touch-sensitive display, while a person uses a finger to do the same on a tablet computer. The reward for moving the ball in harmony is colourful 'fireworks'. Imagination-tickling as this is, it does not probe the central issue — demand and supply. That dilemma is framed in 'Grow House'. Does the plastinated leftover of physician Mark Post's 2013 in vitro burger, made by culturing beef cells, represent a viable solution? Bioartist Oron Catts thinks not. “The real price of growing meat in a lab is hidden,” he notes. Muscle cells are macerated in huge quantities of fetal bovine serum obtained by slaughtering pregnant cows — half a litre of serum yields just 5 grams of meat, says Catts. His speculative Stir Fly is a sleek prototype bioreactor co-created by artist Ionat Zurr and designer Robert Foster to grow fly cells in bovine serum. The mix could be siphoned off and eaten as soup, or drained to form insect 'meat'. Closed-loop urban agriculture systems offer a time-honoured sustainable alternative. AQUAlab, by Dublin-based agricultural start-up firm URBANFARM, harnesses aquaponics — a system in which waste from fish raised for food fertilizes salad and herbs, which in turn purify the water for the fish. (Plants and fish will eventually be harvested as a tasty proof of concept.) The 'Open Ag Lab' showcases another city-farming trend — beekeeping. In the The Dublin Honey Project, Irish black bees do their stuff in six apiaries across the city, and ecologist Jane Stout from Trinity College Dublin will be identifying pollen from the honey to determine foraging sources. Counter-intuitively, the project argues that cities can be relatively clean for bees because of stringent controls on pesticides. Stout argues, too, for ecological intensification — replacing artificial inputs by optimizing ecosystem services and fostering crop diversity. In service to that vision, botanists at Trinity focus on the microbiome. For Endophyte Club, Trevor Hodkinson, Brian Murphy, Anna Kaja Hoeyer and Anindita Lahiri have extracted the microbiome of wild barley and plated the microorganisms that live in the plant out on agar plates. They show how sprinkling seeds with such endophytes can boost yields, potentially reducing fertilizer use. The show points out that consumer choices can determine how and what is grown. 'LOCI Food Lab' is a cart peddling personalized snacks made from Irish foods, digitally selected on a tablet device using criteria such as biodiverse, traditional or delicious. My attempts yielded sweet-salty yogurt, shoots and leaves, mushroom dust and dillisk seaweed: a locavore's dream nibble. Field Test has dug up an assortment of agricultural advances, idealistic prototypes and thought experiments. But the quirkiness on show spurs questioning even as the discoveries framed rouse hope. A coordinated solution to our hungry future remains elusive.

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