Heard a colleague mumble in the safely distanced elevator the other day, “Covid-shmovid, Delta-shmelta, Omicron-shmomicron…blah, blah, blah, I don’t care,” while reading the latest news about the rising number of cases. I couldn’t agree more. So, I shall refrain from repeating a gloomy narrative. Instead, let’s remind ourselves that the dawn of a new year has also brought about a (subtle?) positive change in the way we want to move forward. Cautious but hopeful. Careful but proactive. Vigilant but rejuvenated (maybe not fully but there’s excitement in the air).
We want to work, play and live. We want be productive and we want to make a meaningful impact in 2022 and beyond. And we will.
In January, I signed up for the Duke-NUS Champathon, a virtual 100km walk & run event organised by our Development team to help fundraise for our Student Financial Aid Fund, supporting meritorious and needy students as they prepare to become clinician leaders of tomorrow. The milestones of 5km, 10km, 20km, 50km and 100km seemed exciting and also promise to help get rid of those extra pounds from all the festive goodies. While registration for the event is now closed, you can still support our students by making a gift here. Thank you in advance for your generosity.
Good vibes continued as Duke-NUS’ research on ageing made it into Futurity’s top 10 posts of 2021. Amazing feat, considering that our research was among the latest discoveries by scientists from the 50 top research universities in the world. Our post was the fifth most popular post from 1,750 stories posted in 2021. Futurity attracted 6.45 million visitors and 17.25 million page views. Thank you, Futurity (and all 360,167 readers who made our story the fifth most read post)!
The theme of this issue, regeneration, aligns well with being positive, too. The incredible ability for regeneration by a tiny freshwater creature–the hydra–has long fascinated scientists and experts tackling some of the most pressing human health problems, and that brings us into the lead story about regenerative medicine, a key area of focus for us at the School. Delve into this enthralling topic as our experts share their work and insights on replacing or restoring damaged or missing cells, tissues, organs, and even entire body parts.
In our “Profile”, you will read about Lena Ho’s relentless passion to pursue lab research that started from a remote part of the genome. Thought to be junk RNA devoid of any function, her work resulted in a breakthrough discovery—that far from being junk, the string of RNA was the source for a small peptide—a tiny signalling molecule—essential to the development of the heart and other cardiovascular tissues, and important during pregnancy.
I would be remiss if there is no mention of my favourite column in MEDICUS: “In Conversation With”. In it, we talk to Pat Casey and Lim Soon Thye to find out how our world-class SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre continues to plant the seeds for new ideas about how we collaborate to conduct research, innovate and prepare the next generation of medical leaders. Mentoring is instrumental in rethinking knowledge and showing the way forward to the next generation, and no one does it as well as our clinical faculty from SingHealth.
Finally, the cycle of beginnings and endings often denotes regeneration as well. And while the subject of palliative care remains taboo at least in Asian living rooms, it’s an increasingly crucial conversation for families to have. An important study led by Eric Finkelstein and others ranked countries and regions based on their overall score to questions on how well their health systems provided for the physical and mental wellbeing of patients at the end of life. The United Kingdom earned the highest ranking, followed by Ireland, Taiwan, Australia, South Korea and Costa Rica, which all earned A grades. Singapore, our home, received a B, ranking 23rd among the countries surveyed, while the United States earned a C, coming in 43rd spot.
That’s just some of the interesting content in this issue. There is plenty more to read including the latest on our research, our people and, of course, your burning questions answered by our scientists and experts in our “Ask MEDICUS” column.
I hope you will enjoy reading our stories in this issue of MEDICUS. Thanks for your invaluable feedback. We continually strive to improve our content but more than anything else, we want to continue to bring interesting stories to you.
Looking forward to transforming medicine and improving lives with you for the world.
About the masthead
This issue’s masthead is a close-up of cells in the eye. Research led by Assistant Professor Tay Hwee Goon from the Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disorders Programme has shown in preclinical models that when photoreceptor progenitor cells (stained green in the image), which have been derived from stem cells using the protein laminin, are transplanted into a damaged retina, they can prevent further deterioration and even improve visual function. Read more about why scientists at Duke-NUS are turning to this super-powered protein for help.
Photo credit: Tay Hwee Goon
Writers and contributors
Christopher Laing, Duke-NUS
Foo Suan Jong, Duke-NUS
Jenne Foo, Duke-NUS
Jenny Ang Thar Bin, SingHealth
Michael Schoenfeld, Duke University
Ovidia Lim-Rajaram, National University of Singapore
Patrick Casey, Duke-NUS
Reza Shah Bin Mohd Anwar, Duke-NUS
Sandy Cook, Duke-NUS