A Research Blog

As we say goodbye to 2016 and usher in the new year, the Microscope team would like to celebrate, as we look forward to another year of breakthroughs and advancements, the fantastic year it has been for research. To kick off 2017, we asked each Signature Research Programme Director to pick the top research story impacting their respective research areas in the past year, and have put together a series of posts about each story and its significance for the coming year. Join us over the next few weeks to find out more about the hottest research topics.

In this first instalment, we share with you Professor David Virshup’s pick for the Cancer and Stem Cell Biology Programme at Duke-NUS: Immunotherapy.

What is immunotherapy?Infusions

Immunotherapy has been labelled the newest cancer treatment on the block, a game changer in the way cancer treatment is being approached. Instead of using cytotoxic treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy to kill cancer cells, immunotherapy takes advantage of the patient’s own immune system to recognise and attack cancer cells.

How does immunotherapy work?

Flora and fauna – in the gut!

Using Periodic acid–Schiff (PAS) staining to indicate the region of basement membrane in human colon tissue, we get to see the unexpected beauty in the tissue.

 Image by Chong Li Yen, a Research Associate in the laboratory of Professor Karl Tryggvason,
Tanoto Foundation Professor of Diabetes Research
Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disorders Programme
Duke-NUS Medical School

Many scientists believe the major underlying cause of dementia is the accumulation of clumps of a protein called beta-amyloid, which is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). AD is the most common form of dementia, and it accounts for 60 to 80% percent of dementia cases. Apart from AD, there are many different types of dementia, including some rare types that are inherited or caused by mutations in certain genes. 

Recently, multiple missense mutations in the gene TRIAD3 that result in its loss-of-function have been identified in patients suffering from disorders characterised by cognitive decline, dementia, and movement disorders.  However, it was not clear how TRIAD3 dysfunction resulted in cognitive decline and dementia.

A study by Duke-NUS Assistant Professor Shawn Je, published in Aging Cell, focused on rare mutations in Gordon Holmes syndrome (GHS) patients; these individuals exhibit cognitive decline and dementia. Asst Prof Je’s work was able to show the causal relationship and underlying molecular mechanisms of how the loss-of-function of TRIAD3 resulted in protein misregulation in neurons which, consequently, resulted in synaptic problems and behavioural deficits.

TRIAD3A is an E3 ubiquitin ligase that recognises and facilitates the ubiquitination of its targets for degradation by the ubiquitin-proteosome system (UPS). Asst Prof Je’s laboratory previously identified that this protein regulates a key synaptic protein named Arc (activity-regulated cytoskeletal protein), thereby modulating synaptic transmission in neurons.

David EpsteinJoin us in our new and ongoing conversation with Associate Dean David Epstein, Director of the Centre for Technology & Development (CTeD) about CTeD and commercialisation of research. For starters, we ask the fundamental question of CTeD’s mission and vision.

In a recent Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications study, Assistant Professor Rohit Sinha and Professor Paul Yen from the Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disorders Programme at Duke-NUS Medical School describe the role of short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) in the liver.

Computer brainToday's Microscope contribution is from the Centre for Quantitative Medicine at Duke-NUS Medical School to share more about what they do.

Biostatistics plays a pivotal role in a broad range of research fields, including medical, biological and health sciences. Statistical analysis of data is essential to derive accurate scientific conclusions from sometimes large amounts of seemingly meaningless information. It is imperative that researchers, clinician-scientists and research personnel alike have a sound grasp of the principles of biostatistics and epidemiology to critically assess scientific and medical literature, and to engage in effective development and evaluation of their own research hypotheses.

Unlimited funding

“To work on the discovery of photographic memory that can retain whatever is seen, heard, or sensed, and which can never be forgotten.”

“YES!!!” is the answer whenever someone asks about our research.

Bats have commonly been associated with evil (e.g. Dracula) and the dark side of things in western cultures. Their reputation as terrors of the night and vicious blood suckers have haunted many of us since our childhood. Halloween will never be complete without a bat or two hanging around as decorations. But on the other side of the world, sightings or association with bats are considered auspicious omens in Chinese culture. This is mainly due to the Chinese word for “Bats (Fú)” being a homonym to the Chinese word for “Fortune (Fú)”.

Antonius Van DongenAssociate Professor Antonius Van Dongen of the Neuroscience and Behavioural Disorders Programme at Duke-NUS Medical School is also Director of the SingHealth Advanced Bioimaging Core.Today, Dr Van Dongen shares with us more about microscopy and the Core's advanced bioimaging capabilities available to SingHealth and Singapore investigators.

Shee-Mei Lok


Shee-Mei Lok is a structural biologist and an Associate Professor in the Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme at Duke-NUS Medical School, who specialises in studying the structure of flaviviruses such as dengue in order to find and exploit ways to weaken them. This year Prof Lok was at the forefront of Zika virus research in Singapore as she uncovered important details about the virus' structure, which gave hope and arsenal to the researchers and scientists working to counter it. The National Research Foundation (NRF) recently featured Prof Lok's personal and academic journey in NRF's Scientists Profiles, which you can read here



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