The University of Macau (UM) held a Doctor honoris causa Lecture titled ‘Focused Ultrasound-Enhanced Gene Editing: A Potential Therapeutic Approach for Alzheimer’s Disease’, featuring Leong Kam Weng, honorary doctor of UM and member of the US National Academy of Engineering, as the speaker. During the talk, Prof Leong presented his team’s latest research advancements in gene editing in the brains of experimental animals using viral and non-viral vectors. He also discussed the implications of this cutting-edge technology for treating Alzheimer’s disease. The talk attracted many UM faculty and students, as well as people from different sectors of the community.
Chen Xin, director of UM’s Institute of Chinese Medical Sciences, said that Prof Leong, as an eminent scientist, has made significant contributions to biomaterials science and engineering, particularly in the development of innovative biomaterials for drug delivery and regenerative medicine. As a leading figure in the field of biomaterials, Prof Leong is highly recognised for his trailblazing research that has benefited the well-being of humankind.
Prof Leong is a member of both the US National Academy of Engineering and the US National Academy of Medicine. He is also a fellow of the US National Academy of Inventors, and the Samuel Y. Sheng Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Columbia University. He began the talk by sharing his personal connection to Macao as his hometown and reflecting on his academic journey. Prof Leong expressed his gratitude to UM for conferring on him an honorary doctorate, and looks forward to establishing closer ties with the university in the future.
During the talk, he pointed out that Apolipoprotein E (APOE) genotype is the most significant genetic risk factor in the pathogenesis of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and the presence of an APOE4 allele increases the risk of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Moreover, the delivery of gene-editing components to the brain is hindered by obstacles such as the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Prof Leong’s research team has developed a method using focused ultrasound (FUS) technology to transiently open the BBB, thereby resolving a bottleneck in targeted gene editing therapies. This finding lays the foundation for the clinical use of gene editing therapy for treating Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, Prof Leong actively engaged in the Q&A session with the participants and had in-depth exchanges with faculty and students.
The lecture provided a good learning and exchange opportunity for faculty and students of UM, and industry practitioners. Through Prof Leong’s lecture and sharing of his experiences, faculty and students gained a better understanding of the development trends and application prospects of gene editing in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Prof Leong’s successful experiences also provide a valuable reference and source of inspiration for talent cultivation and technological innovation at UM.