Newsletter No. 160

Surgical Advance Brings Hope to the Hearing Impaired T wo ground-breaking Aud i t o ry Brainstem Implant (ABI) operations were performed at the Prince of Wales Hospital recently by the Divisions of Otorhinolaryngology and Neurosurgery of the University's Department of Surgery to restore hearing in patients with bilateral nerve and sensory deafness. In October 1999, two young women with tumours on both hearing nerves had their tumours removed and were implanted with 24-channel ABI devices — the first time such implantations were conducted in Asia following their successful initial trial in Europe. The devices were switched on in late November. The Prince of Wales Hospital is one of only two centres in Asia capable of performing ABI surgery. The ABI is a device that is surgically positioned into a patient's brainstem to partially restore hearing. Patients with total hearing loss on both sides resulting from hearing nerve problems, in particular tumours, are suitable candidates. The surgery was performed by two teams of surgeons: ear specialists and neurosurgeons. The tumour was first removed, then the device was positioned in the brainstem with the help of a sophisticated monitoring system. The implanted electrodes were linked to an external speech processor through an antenna whereby electrically stimulated signals are transmitted to the b r a i n . I n t e n s i ve mon i t o r i ng of the patients is essential to the success of the surgery as the brainstem is one of the most important parts of the b r a in c o n t r o l l i ng breathing and heartbeat. Programming of the device and rehabilitation of the patients are undertaken by both the audiologists and the speech therapists in the teams. The success of ABI surgery is not only a milestone in hearing restoration, but also highlights the importance of multi- disciplinary teamwork and the ability of local medical professionals to provide the highest standard of medical care to Hong Kong citizens. From left: Prof. Michael C.F. Tong, Prof. C. Andrew van Hasselt, Prof. Sydney S.C. Chung, Prof. Allan M.Z. Chang, Prof. Poon Wai-sang, and Prof. Joseph M.K. Lam, at a press conference to introduce ABI surgery Pooling brilliant minds to promote excellence P rof. Tom McArthur of Exeter University in the UK delivered a public lecture entitled 'Describing theWorld of English' on 18th February at the University. A prominent scholar in contemporary English teaching, with numerous publications including dictionaries, books, and journal articles, Prof. McArthur addressed issues in English language teaching that are useful for the community-at-large as well as the English teaching profession. Prof. McArthur was invited to the University under the 1999-2000 Distinguished Humanities Professorship Scheme initiated by the Faculty of Arts. The aim of the scheme is to bring outstanding scholars in the humanities the world over to Hong Kong to advise the faculty on issues relating to research and teaching, the development of core courses and specific areas of excellence. Through communication with and among these scholars, the faculty hopes to broaden its own international perspective and enhance its academic culture. Other scholars invited to participate in the scheme are also important figures in their respective fields. They include Prof. Kristofer Schipper, scholar of religion from Sorbonne University of Paris, Prof. Willem Elders, scholar of music from the Utrecht University in the Netherlands, and Prof. Theo Hermans, expert in translation from the University of London. Prof. ST. Kwok (left), dean of arts, and Prof. Tom McArthur TWOMOR E R SEARCHPROJECTS RECEIVE SUPPORT T he following research projects conducted by University staff have attracted funding support from local sources: • A Cross-sectional, Single-centre Study on the Levels and Sources of Mercury, Cadminium, and Lead in a Hong Kong Mother-Infant Cohort (HK$545,704) Sponsor: Health Care and Promotion Fund Principal investigator: Prof. Fok Tai-fai (Department of Paediatrics) • Nursing Management of Oral Mucositis in Cancer Patients (HK$377,220) Sponsor. Health Services Research Fund Principal investigator: Prof. Anne M. Chang (Department of Nursing) CUHK A i d to East T imor Highlighte d at Conference Malaria, an old menace, is an increasing problem in southeast Asia. Already endemic in parts of mainland China, climatic changes could result in its return to Hong Kong. The problem of malaria in South China, the Philippines, and East Timor was discussed in the symposium 'Malaria — Problems and Potential Solutions' held by the Division of Clinical Pharmacology of the University's Department of Medicine and Therapeutics on 8th February 2000. Hong Kong's contribution to the fight against this enormous health problem was highlighted both in terms of its donation of essential drugs and other medical aid, and in terms of the progress being made here towards developing effective malaria vaccines. In particular, the University's recent donation of anti- malaria drugs to East Timor under the sponsorship of Mr. Eric Hotung was presented. CUHK has also teamed up with the Hong Kong Institute of Biotechnology (HKIB) to test a revolutionary malaria vaccine in collaboration with the National Institute of Health (NIH) in the US. The HKIB has synthesized large quantities of this vaccine which should stop the spread of ma l a r ia by mosquitoes. This transmission blocking vaccine will be tested on human volunteers, and, following the completion of clinical studies, the HKIB-CUHK-NIH teamwill conduct field trials of the vaccine in malaria-ridden areas such as South China, East Timor, and Thailand. Speakers at the conference included Mr. Robert Hotung and Ms. Virginia Maher of the Hotung Institute for International Studies, Prof. Mamie Hui and Prof. Julian Critchley of the CUHK Faculty of Medicine, Drs. Simon C.W. Kwong and Philip K.M. Ngai of HKIB, Dr. Louis Miller of NIH, Dr. Allan Saul from Brisbane, and Prof. Tang L in Hua from Shanghai. Loading a chartered plane with 350kg of anti-malaria and other drugs. Seen in the centre in white is Prof. Julian Critchley.