Research Projects
Single-Cell Lineage Maps of Blood/immune Cells in Human Organoids

Programme(s) to which this project applies:

☑ MPhil/PhD ☒ MRes[Med] ☒ URIS
About the Project

Blood/immune cells sustain life through oxygen supply, resistance to infection, and gatekeeping cancer cells. We developed a powerful stem cell culture system that allowed us to recapitulate blood/immune cell development in human organoids. What are the lineage relationships of human blood/immune cells? The analysis of lineage relationships represents a research area of fundamental importance as a major framework for regenerative medicine and genetic disorders. In this highly collaborative project, we will focus on improving our understanding of lineage specification in the developing blood/immune system. The PhD student will be involved in the generation and analysis of blood/immune cells in human organoids. They will use single-cell RNA-seq and novel single-cell barcoding technology and analyse cellular types and its lineage. Through collaboration with informaticians, we will create single-cell lineage maps of blood/immune cells in human organoids. Methods to be used: molecular biology methods, organoid formation, cell culture, stem cell differentiation, single-cell RNA-seq, and bioinformatics analysis. This highly collaborative project will additionally involve the laboratories of Prof Pengtao Liu (HKU) who is an expert in expanded potential stem cells and Prof Bertie Gottgens (Cambridge) who has strong expertise in bioinformatics analysis of hematopoietic development.

About the Supervisor

Dr RR Sugimura, School of Biomedical Sciences

Dr Rio Sugimura received his M.D. from Osaka University, Japan, in 2008, and his Ph.D. in Stem Cells and Regeneration from the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, USA, in 2012. He has been trained at world-leading institutes, including Harvard Medical School and Kyoto University. He is an Assistant Professor in the School of Biomedical Sciences, The University of Hong Kong. Dr Sugimura is a full faculty member of the Stem Cells & Regeneration Section in F1000Prime, a member of American Association of Immunologists (AAI), American Society of Hematology (ASH), Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), Association for Cancer Immunotherapy (CIMT), Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), International Society of Experimental Hematology (ISEH), International Union of Immunological Societies (IUIS), the North American Vascular Biology Organization (NAVBO), Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC), and a co-founder of the medical branch of Kagakusha-Net. Dr. Sugimura is a recipient of the ASH Scholar Award, March of Dimes, Early Career Grant from Japanese Ministry, Genius Award from Young Hematologist Meeting in Japan, Takeda Science Foundation, iPS Academia Japan Foundation, SMRF Fellowship, Kanehara Memorial Foundation, and Uehara Memorial Foundation. Dr. Sugimura mastered grantsmanship at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Scientific Writing Retreat 2019. Dr Sugimura supervised one postdoctoral fellow, one medical student, three Ph.D. students, two master students, and three undergraduate students.

Dr Sugimura is an accomplished scientist, recognized for his outstanding contributions to the field of haematology and stem cell biology. He is interested in using single-cell barcoding technology to delineate single-cell lineage maps of blood/immune cells in human organoids and exploring druggable targets of anti-cancer immunity. His major contribution includes identification of the crucial cellular metabolisms that regulate blood stem cells (Sugimura, 2012. Cell), and exploitation of the genetic program to specify blood stem cells from human pluripotent stem cells (Sugimura, 2017. Nature). Before joining HKU, Dr Sugimura established platforms of human immune cell-generating organoids (Ohta & Sugimura, 2019. JoVE) and organ-on-a-chip (Sugimura, 2020. Biomed. Microdevices). He has published more than 12 peer-reviewed articles in leading journals, such as Nature, Cell, and Genes & Development, received 1,202 citations (Google Scholar).

Google Scholar
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Next Step?

For more information or to express interest for this project, please email the supervisor or the specified contact point in the project description.  Interested candidates are advised to enclose with your email:

  1. your CV,
  2. a brief description of your research interest and experience, and
  3. two reference letters (not required for HKUMed UG students seeking MRes[Med]/URIS projects).

Information on the research programme, funding support and admission documentations could be referenced online at the Research Postgraduate Admissions website.

General admission enquiries should be directed to