Year- 6 medical student Mr Lai Hei-ming from the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) won the 11th China Adolescents Science and Technology Innovation Contest with his breakthrough in the visualisation of human brain tissue at the microscopic level. Mr Lai is one of the 100 young researchers in China to win the award this year and the only winner in Hong Kong.
On receiving the award, Mr Lai said, "I am very honoured to be the only winner in the Hong Kong region. Balancing medical school and laboratory work has been extremely challenging. I am also immensely grateful for the support of my parents and the research team, without which I wouldn't have been successful. While this exploratory study may not directly impact clinical practice, it certainly has been a valuable and fruitful journey for me."
Under the supervision of Honorary Professor Wutian Wu from the School of Biomedical Sciences in HKU, Mr Lai and a team of scientists from Imperial College London developed a new tissue clearing solution OPTIClear which can turn specimen human brain tissue transparent, enabling high-resolution and deep imaging of neuronal circuitries without the need of sectioning the tissues. This not only save time and labour, but can show nerve cells, glial cells, and blood vessels in exquisite detail, with their 3D relationship determined. A better understanding of the connections and circuitries of the brain will help uncover the pathologies that underlie the common degenerative diseases of the brain, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. As lead researcher of the study, Mr Lai hopes this technique can be used in studying other diseases, and eventually help to unravel the mysteries of the human body. This study won him two awards and have been published in various academic journals.
The China Adolescents Science and Technology Innovation Contest was founded in 2004 and extended to students in Hong Kong and Macau in 2008. The fund rewards about 100 people each year in five categories: postgraduate students, undergraduate students, senior high school students, junior high school students and elementary school students. Postgraduate and undergraduate students are awarded a scholarship of RMB20,000 each, while winners in primary and secondary schools are awarded a scholarship of RMB5,000 each, on top of a certificate of honour and a trophy.