Research Projects
Adipokines as Diagnostic Markers and Therapeutic Targets for Cardiovascular Complications of Obesity and Diabetes

Programme(s) to which this project applies:

☒ MPhil/PhD ☑ MRes[Med] ☒ URIS

Objective and Significance:

Obesity is a major risk factor for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This project aims to dissect the molecular mechanisms that links these disorders, with specific focuses on adipose tissue (fat)-derived adipokines. We will investigate how adipose tissue dysfunction in obesity leads to aberrant production of adipokines, and will study the roles of adipokines in the pathogenesis of insulin resistance, vascular dysfunction and atherosclerosis. We will also explore the potential application of using adipokines as biomarkers for risk prediction and early diagnosis of cardiovascular disease in diabetic patients. The findings from this study may help to develop effective strategies for treatment and prevention of cardiovascular complications in obesity and diabetes.

Research Plan and Methodology:

The projects involve both animal and clinical studies. We will use genetically modified rodents and rabbits to investigate whether ablation of adiponectin (a major adipocyte-secreted anti-diabetic hormone) accelerates obesity-induced endothelial dysfunction and atherocslerosis, or whether genetic disruption of adipocyte fatty acid binding protein (a pro-inflammatory) adipokines protect animals from developing these cardio-metabolic disorders. In humans, we will use the highly specific immunoassays developed by us to evaluate whether plasma levels of these adipokines are independently associated with the development of diabetes and cardiovascular events in our local Chinese population.

Professor A Xu, Department of Medicine

Professor Aimin Xu has been focusing on both basic and translational research on obesity/diabetes-related disorders. He is leading the State Key Laboratory of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, which is at the forefront of innovation and discovery in the field of molecular metabolism, with a focus on hormones and biomarkers. Professor Xu has made significant contributions to discovery and functional characterisation of several adipokines and hormones including adiponectin, fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21), adipocyte-fatty acid binding protein (A-FABP) and lipocalin-2.

Google Scholar

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

HKUMed MBBS students interested in the Master of Research in Medicine (MRes[Med]) programme may visit the programme website for more information.  

HKUMed UG students interested in the Undergraduate Research Internship Scheme (URIS) may visit the scheme’s website for more information.