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PolyU Advancing Healthcare Innovation

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has secured substantial funding support totalling HK$25.1 million for a selection of 27 innovative projects from the Health and Medical Research Fund (HMRF) during the 2021 funding allocation. This represents a noteworthy increase in both the number of projects and the total funding awarded, underlining the university’s commitment to advancing research in the fields of health and medicine through technology and innovation.

The projects receiving these awards are driven by researchers from various faculties within the university, including the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, Faculty of Humanities, Faculty of Science, and the School of Design. These projects collectively aim to develop pioneering and impactful solutions geared towards enhancing the quality of medical and mental healthcare services.

The research initiatives encompass an extensive spectrum of topics and age groups, addressing critical health concerns and providing innovative solutions. Some of the projects focus on cognitive and physical training programmes tailored for older adults, early detection of postpartum depression, adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, Parkinson’s disease, autism spectrum disorder, and system-biology analytics for schizophrenia. Other projects aim to advance medical progress in critical areas such as liver cancer radiotherapy and palliative care.

In the realm of eye health, the projects delve into areas such as myopia control, the development of an anti-glaucoma agent, and the creation of drugs for antibiotic and infection treatment. Additionally, several projects concentrate on providing support for caregivers by enhancing their mental health services while also catering to the specific needs of patients.

One notable aspect of this research is the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, including deep learning and machine learning, to enhance clinical diagnosis and analysis. For instance, Prof Weixong ZHANG, Chair Professor of Bioinformatics and Integrative Genomics at the Department of Health Technology and Informatics, is leading the project “Subtyping and Diagnosis of Schizophrenia by Systems-biology Analytics.” This initiative employs AI technologies to integrate genomic and neuroimaging data, facilitating a deeper understanding of schizophrenia’s etiology and subtypes, with the ultimate goal of enabling personalised medicine for affected individuals.

In the context of liver cancer radiotherapy, Dr Tian LI, Research Assistant Professor of the Department of Health Technology and Informatics, is spearheading the project “Investigation of a Deep Learning-empowered 4D multi-parametric MRI (4D-mpMRI) Technique for Liver Cancer Radiotherapy in a Prospective Clinical Trial.” This endeavour aims to enhance the image quality and clinical effectiveness of 4D-mpMRI radiotherapy techniques by leveraging deep learning, ensuring more accurate measurement of tumour motion and volume for improved treatment planning.

Technology is also playing a pivotal role in the field of rehabilitation management. Autism spectrum disorder, a condition without a cure, presents unique challenges. Dr Yvonne Ming Yee HAN, Associate Professor of the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, leads the project “Cumulative and Booster Effects of Multisession Prefrontal Transcranial Direct-current Stimulation on Cognitive and Social Impairments in Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” This research explores the potential long-term efficacy of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) in mitigating core symptoms in individuals with autism, offering hope for improved cognitive and social functioning.

Creative technologies are also being harnessed to enhance the effectiveness of physical and mental health treatments in both clinical and community settings. Dr Shanshan WANG, Research Assistant Professor of the School of Nursing, leads the project “Effects of e-bibliotherapy on the Psychological Wellbeing of Informal Caregivers of People with Dementia: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” This initiative has developed an e-bibliotherapy app/manual aimed at improving the psychological well-being and health-related quality of life for caregivers of dementia patients.

In an innovative endeavour, Dr Hailiang WANG, Assistant Professor of the School of Design, is leading the project “A VR-based Real-time Interactive Tutoring System for Qigong Training among Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment and Their Familial Caregivers: A Feasibility Study.” This project explores the integration of traditional exercise Qigong with virtual reality (VR)-based training to design a platform that enables older adults to engage in Qigong exercises, potentially delaying the progression of dementia.

PolyU’s securing of funding aligns with Hong Kong’s broader efforts to drive positive societal change through technological innovation, echoing the collaborative spirit seen in initiatives like the “Healthcare Innovation Challenge” organised by the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP), as reported earlier by OpenGov Asia, in partnership with a US-based pharmaceutical company. These endeavours collectively demonstrate the region’s dedication to leveraging technology to shape the future of healthcare and advance societal well-being.


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