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IMU Postgraduate Students Awarded the Malaysia Toray Science Foundation (MTSF) Grant

09 Nov 2016

Two Masters of Science in Medical and Health Sciences (by Research) students from International Medical University (IMU), Tan Si Hoey and Yeo Pei Ling, were awarded the Malaysia Toray Science Foundation (MTSF) Grant worth RM20,000 each. Si Hoey was awarded with the grant for her project titled Phosphoproteomic Analysis of p21 Protein-activated Kinase (PAK-4)-mediated Phosphorylation Signalling in Invasive Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma (OSCC) under the supervision of Prof Leong Chee Onn and Dr Felicia Chung Fei Lei. Oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) is the most common cancer in the mouth and face regions and they account for more than 80% of all cases of head and neck cancer. Despite the advanced development of treatments, the 5-year survival rate of patients has remained at 55% for the past 30 years. IMU_8324 Recently, numerous studies have been conducted on PAK4 which is a protein molecule found to play a pivotal role in the progression of different types of cancer including breast, prostate and thyroid cancers. However, its underlying mechanistic role has yet to be elucidated. Using advances in proteomics (study of the functions, structures, and interactions of proteins), the objective of Si Hoey’s study is to identify the roles of PAK4 and its importance in cancer progression of OSCC. The ultimate aim of her study is to identify and develop novel drug for OSCC treatment. On the other hand, Pei Ling will be working on her project titled The Role of miRNA-331-5p in Apoptosis via MAPK Signalling Pathway in 6-OHDA Induced Parkinson’s Disease Cell Model under the supervision of Dr Chye Soi Moi and Dr Koh Rhun Yian. Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is the second most common progressive disease resulting in neurodegeneration (death in nerve cells) and it is affecting two percent of elderly worldwide. PD is known to be caused by imbalance in production and removal of free radicals (molecules containing unpaired electrons that are highly reactive and are harmful to the body) as well as deficiency of dopamine (a neurotransmitter) leading to death of nerve cells. Studies reported that miRNA-331-5p which is a microRNA is significantly elevated in PD patients. It was also reported that microRNA might target several proteins of the mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK) implicated in apoptosis (an important neurodegeneration event involved in PD). Hence, Pei Ling’s study aims to study the effects of miRNA-331-5p inhibition on nerve cell apoptosis and to elucidate the mechanisms of actions. Identification of the role of miRNA-331-5p in neuronal cell apoptosis will give a new direction of drug intervention to decelerate the neurodegeneration in patients with PD.

The Malaysia Toray Science Foundation was established in 1993 through a RM4 million endowment by Toray Industries, Inc., Japan. The Foundation is registered with and recognised by the Malaysian authorities as an organization formed to promote and advance science and technology in Malaysia. The objective of the Foundation is to contribute to the progress of Science and Technology in Malaysia particularly for the fields of natural sciences.

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