CUHK Establishes Asia’s First Microbiota Transplantation & Research CentreHope for New Strategies in Disease Prevention and Cure
The Faculty of Medicine at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) has established Asia’s first and Hong Kong’s only microbiota transplantation and research centre to unravel the role of the gut microbiota in human health, and to develop novel strategies for disease prevention and intervention. With successful experience in using microbiota transplantation to treat a number of life threatening conditions, experts from the Faculty are now investigating its potential to treat other conditions including obesity.
Gut Microbiota May Hold the Key to Curing Many Diseases
Professor Francis KL CHAN, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Choh-Ming Li Professor of Medicine and Therapeutics at CUHK said, “Recent evidence suggests that imbalance in the gut microbiota can lead to many human diseases. Although microbiota-based therapeutics appears promising, the science behind this is still in its infancy. The Faculty of Medicine has been the pioneer in Asia in gut microbiota research. Not only have we published our work in top tier international journals, we have also successfully used microbiota transplantation to recover patients from life-threatening gastrointestinal diseases. Having set up Asia’s first and only microbiota transplantation and research centre in Hong Kong, we will now expand research in microbiota transplantation to other conditions such as obesity and metabolic syndrome. Our goal is to preserve and improve human health through the restoration of microbiota.”
Safety is Our Priority – Rigorous Screening is Required for Every Donor
Professor Paul Kay Sheung CHAN, Chairman of the Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine at CUHK explained, “The Faculty established the gut microbiota biobank, the first of its kind, in March 2016 to provide quality-assured frozen microbiota solution for microbiota transplantation. Safety, optimisation, and viability preservation are the three key elements of our gut microbiota biobank. Our donors are required to undergo rigorous assessment and investigations by an integrated team of microbiologists, gastroenterologists and pathologists to ensure their stools are suitable for microbiota transplantation. The health requirements on stool donors are stricter than those for blood or organ donors.”
“To date, the facility has supported over 80 microbiota transplantations. Not only have we saved numerous patients with life-threatening gastrointestinal diseases using this approach, it has also advanced our knowledge on this new treatment option.”
Microbiota Transplantation as a Potential Treatment for Obesity
The team is working on a pilot study to investigate the use of microbiota transplantation to treat obese patients with type II diabetes mellitus. There is an epidemic of obesity worldwide. In Hong Kong, four out of ten adults are either overweight or obese.
Professor Siew Chien NG, Professor of the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, Faculty of Medicine at CUHK said, “Although obese patients with type II diabetes mellitus may be treated with lifestyle changes, medications or bariatric surgery, these treatments are not widely acceptable, and they are limited by incomplete resolution of the disease, high cost and surgical risk. There is a real need for a more promising and safe approach to treating obesity.”
“We select lean individuals with a BMI < 23kg/m2 as donors for microbiota transplantation. We investigate weight reduction and improvement in sugar control in obese patients with type II diabetes mellitus after microbiota transplantation.”
“So far we have treated over 20 subjects; several have shown promising weight loss over 6 months. The most substantial weight loss we have seen was 12 kg. We are encouraged by this and will continue to monitor our subjects for up to one year,” Professor NG added.