Newsletter No. 89

VC Receives Japan's Highest Honour for Scientists On 26th April at an award-presentation ceremony held in Japan's National Theatre in Tokyo, Vice-Chancellor Prof. Charles Kao received the 1996 Japan Prize from the president of the Science and Technology Foundation of Japan. The prize highlights Prof. Kao's outstanding and original achievements in the field of information, computer, and communication systems, and carries a cash award worth US$500,000. Donatio n from Matilda Charities Fund t o Help Burns Victims an d the Deaf On 24t h Apri l Dr . David Henderse n represented th e Matilda Charitie s Fun d to present two cheques each of $100,000 to the Cochlear Implant Centre and the Bums Unit of the Prince of Wales Hospital (PWH). The donation wa s raise d throug h th e Matild a Bazaar and Sedan Chair Race. Dr. Aliso n Reid , Hospita l Chie f Executive, received the cheque on behalf of the Cochlea r Implan t Tea m at PWH. Th e team, which consists o f representatives of the Hospital Authority and the CUHK Department of Surgery, started a 'bioni c ear ' programme 1 8 months ago whereby sophisticated electronic devices are implanted by surgeons into the skulls of profoundly deaf patients to directl y stimulat e thei r hearin g nerve. Prof. C. A. van Hasselt , hea d of th e multi-disciplinar y team , indicated that the donation fro m the Matilda Charities Fund would be used to set up a Cochlear Implant Centre , but further donations would be needed to complete the rehabilitation facilities for patients and ensure the centre's viability. The chequ e for the Burn s Uni t wa s presented to Prof. Joseph Lee, acting dean of medicine, to support the excellent wor k the unit is doing in treating bums cases in Hong Kong. Prof. Walter King, head of the unit, sai d tha t thi s donatio n woul d go towards th e purchase o f a special hig h energy laser for treating scars in bum cases. Wei Lun Lecture Pathologist Sheds Light on Cell Death Wei Lu n Visiting Professo r Andre w H. Wyllie, professor of experimental pathology at the University of Edinburgh, UK, delivered a lecture on the process of cel death at the Prince of Wales Hospital on 6th May. Entitled 'Apoptosis : Programmed Cell Death in Health an d Disease', th e lectur e focused upo n Prof . Wyllie' s fiel d o f specialization: apoptosis , a mode of death adopted by single cells within living tissues in man y circumstance s wher e cel l deat h appears to be programmed. It is the principal mode o f cell deletio n durin g vertebrat e development i n atrophy of adult tissues, in censorship i n the immun e system , in the targets o f immune cel l killing , durin g physiological turn-over of normal tissues, in growing an d regressing tumour s and, sometimes, in response to xenobiotic injury. With Alastai r Curri e an d John Kerr , Prof. Wylli e identifie d th e characteristic structural change s of this proces s in 1972 and gave it its name. Its many features and the role of major cancer-related genes in its regulation hav e sinc e been described and discussed. A substantia l proportio n of the current interest in apoptosis has been due to the work of his group. In the lecture, Prof. Wyllie concentrated upon new insights that have been gained into the subject : th e activatio n o f a family of cysteine protease s o f the interleuki n 1 β family that is central in the effector pathway, the gen e product s tha t regulat e cellula r susceptibility t o the activation o f these proteases, and abnormalities in the apoptosis pathway tha t can account for many human diseases, notabl y auto-immun e disease , certain chroni c inflammator y disorders , AIDS, and cancer. GRANTS FROM INDUSTRIAL SUPPORT FUND FOR FOUR PROJECTS Four research projects proposed by staf of the University hav e recently bee n selected for funding support by the Industry and Technology Development Council. The four projects are: 1. Formulatio n of Preservation Solution for Transplantation o f Heart an d Othe r Organs (HK$1,450,112) Principal Investigator : Prof . K. R Fung , Department of Biochemistry 2. Hig h Capacit y Networ k Infrastructure s for Internet Service Providers and Multimedia Applications (HK$7,730,000 ) Principal Investigator : Dr . Joseph Yu - Ngai Hui , Departmen t o f Information Engineering 3. Integratin g Dat a Service s o n DECT Systems (HK$3,440,000) Principal Investigator: Prof. Wing Shing Wong, Departmen t o f Informatio n Engineering 4. Developmen t of a Portable Fibre Optical Particle Sizin g Senso r fo r Local Industrial Applications and Environmental Protection (HK$495,000 ) Principal Investigator : Dr . Chi Wu , Department of Chemistry Lecture in Memory of Chinese Neurophysiologist To commemorate the first death anniversary of Prof . T. P. Feng, famous Chines e physiologist who died last April at the age of 88, the Departmen t o f Physiology i n the University ha s established th e T. P. Feng Memorial Lectur e scheme . Unde r thi s scheme, one prominent physiologist will be invited from China each year to deliver a lecture. The inaugural lecture was the key event of th e Hon g Kon g Annua l Physiolog y Symposium held at the University o n 26th and 27th April. It was attended by over 100 scientists fro m th e UK, US, Germany, Canada, China and Taiwan. Entitled 'Identificatio n an d Characterization of Amino Acid Receptor Subtypes in th e Outer Retina' , th e lecture was delivered by Prof. Yang Xiong-li, directo r of the Shanghai Institute of Physiology. Prior to the lecture, Prof. Yang highlighted the late Pr f. Feng' s achievement s i n neurophysiological research and his contributions to the developmen t o f modem physiologica l sciences in China.