Newsletter No. 99

NEWSLETTER From Splicing to Stockholm: Nobel Laureate Gives Lecture on DNA D r. Richard J. Roberts, Nobel Laureate and director of research at New England Biolabs Inc., USA, gave a lecture at the University on 20th November in his capacity as Wei Lun Visiting Professor. The lecture, which was intended for a lay audience, began with a brief description of DNA, RNA, proteins, and their role in cells, with an emphasis on the transfer of information from DNA to protein. Dr. Roberts outlined the development of human understanding of the process in the 1970s, and discussed the experiments he carried out from 1975 that led to the discovery of split genes and RNA splicing in 1977. The lecture concluded with Dr. Robert's personal account of his trip to Stockholm in 1993 to receive the Nobel Prize for Physiology/Medicine. Born in England in 1943, Dr. Roberts obtained his B.Sc. in chemistry from Sheffield University in 1965, and his Ph.D. three years later. In 1969 Dr. Roberts and his family went to Harvard University where he embarked on postgraduate studies for the following four years. He did extensive research into DNA and RNA for the next two decades, working with highly acclaimed scientists such as Jim Watson. His most recent work has been in the area of DNA methylases. In 1992 Dr. Roberts was appointed chief consultant of New England Biolabs, a private company which makes restriction enzymes. He is now joint research director of the company. Dr. Roberts says the main theme of his work in biology has centred on the belief that 'we must know the structure of the molecules we work with i f we are to understand how they function.' Proteins, their three-dimensional structure and post- translational modification, will be the focus of his future work. A NEW RESEARCH CENTRE T O STUDY REL IGION A N D CHINESE SOCIETY The University celebrated the opening of a new research centre on 30th November. The Centre for the Study of Religion and Chinese Society, the first of its kind in the territory, was established at Chung Chi College to boost efforts at the University as well as in Hong Kong and other Chinese societies to study religions. It also aims to enhance research collaboration among different academic disciplines in the process. The centre will focus on interdisciplinary areas of study, such as Chinese culture and Christianity, Taoism and folk religions, Chinese culture and Buddhism, Chinese literature and religion, women and religion. Emphasis will be placed on the study of religions as an academic discipline, and theology in the Hong Kong and Chinese contexts. Prof. Tang Yi Jie, an internationally renowned philosopher at Peking University, made a keynote address at the opening ceremony of the centre. Preceding the event was a three-day international conference held by the Department of Religion at the Cho Yiu Conference Hall. Entitled 'Interpretations of Hope in Chinese Religion and Christianity', the conference covered the various discourses on hope in the Chinese religions as well as in Christian theologies. It brought into dialogue scholars in both traditions from the world over, and provided a forum to examine the applicability of the religious theme of hope to the historical change Hong Kong will soon undergo in 1997. FOUR Workshops TO DEMONSTRATE M e d i c a l Advances • A two-day workshop entitled'MolecularTyping— Its Application in Clinical Microbiology' was organized by the Department of Microbiology on 19th and 20th November at the Prince of Wales Hospital. There were demonstrations of the different applications of molecular techniques, and lectures on the typing of viruses, mycobacteria, and enteric pathogens. Guest speaker Dr. Tyrone Pitt, deputy director of the Central Public Health Laboratory, UK, gave a seminar on Burkholderia pseudomallei and melioidosis, a condition particularly relevant to South East Asia. • The 1st Asian Pacific Workshop on Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery was held from 21st to 23rd November at the Prince of Wales Hospital. Experts from Hong Kong, USA, Japan, and Taiwan demonstrated state-of-the-art procedures to an international audience of close to 300. Thoracoscopic surgery, popularly known as keyhole surgery of the chest, is a relatively new approach to the management of chest conditions. It shortens the period of hospitalization and causes less pain than conventional surgery. The CUHK Faculty of Medicine has been a leader in the field of thoracoscopic surgery and interventional bronchoscopy, and has recently introduced minimally invasive coronary surgery to perform coronary bypasses. • The International Workshop on Helicobacter Pylori was held on 1st and 2nd December at the Sheraton Hotel. Leading experts in Helicobacter research, including the discoverer of the bacterium, Dr. Barry Marshall, shared their latest findings with more than 400 doctors from Hong Kong and other Asian countries. Helicobacter pylori is a bacterium that resides in the human stomach and is now regarded as the most important cause of peptic ulcers and chronic inflammation of the stomach. The discovery of the bacterium and its relations to peptic ulcers has changed the treatment methods of the disease. Doctors from the Faculty of Medicine have been using antibiotics to treat peptic ulcers since 1992, and it has resulted in a dramatic decline in incidences of the disease. • The 11th International Workshop on Therapeutic Endoscopy was held from 3rd to 5th December at the Prince of Wales Hospital to demonstrate the newest developments in endoscopic surgery. It was attended by 350 gastroenterologists and surgeons from all over the world. Proceedings were transmitted via satellite to Japan and the United States. With the rapid development of t h e r a p e u t i c endoscopy in recent years, many diseases that previously required open surgery can now be treated without an operation. Notable examples are peptic ulcer, oesophageal cancer, and bile duct obstruction. At the workshop doctors in Tokyo and California observed as CUHK faculty members and other experts from overseas performed new procedures specially designed for diseases prevalent in Hong Kong and South East Asia. Experts from the three places also exchanged views on patient management.