Research Projects
Expanded Potential Stem Cells for Studying Human Disease and for Regenerative Medicine and Cancer

Programme(s) to which this project applies:

☒ MPhil/PhD ☑ MRes[Med] ☒ URIS

Objective and Significance:

Our research areas span several fields: Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine, Cancer, Reproduction, Development and Growth, Infection and Immunology, heart, brain, hormone & healthy aging.

We have established from several mammalian species a new type of stem cells that have the developmental potential to all cell types, including the placenta trophoblasts. These stem cells are named Expanded Potential Stem Cells or EPSCs.

Objective: We aim to use EPSCs to study human disease mechanisms, to identify drug target candidates, and to apply these cells in regenerative medicine, immunotherapy and biotechnology.

Significance: Stem cells produce all cells in our body. Abnormal activities in stem cell population can lead to disease including cancer. Stem cells also hold great promise in regenerative medicine for cell-based therapies and organ transplantation, etc.

Research Plan and Methodology:

Human EPSCs could be established by reprogramming somatic cells such as blood monocytes or dermal fibroblasts. In practice, they are easy to culture and to perform genome-editing. We will perform genome-editing in key genes and produce human immune cells for immunotherapies, and for studying immune and infectious disease. We will establish EPSC lines from human patients and develop optimized procedures to generate from EPSCs the cell types relevant to human disease. These cells will facilitate dissection of molecular and cellular mechanisms of human disease and enable screens for drug target candidates. The in vitro produced human cells will be tested for their potential use in cell-based therapies in preclinical studies.

Porcine EPSCs are similar to human EPSCs in culture property, molecular features and developmental potential. We will genome-edit porcine EPSCs to humanize a number of loci for producing pigs that are suitable for xenotransplantation and for biotechnology applications.

We use and develop a range of technologies in single cell genomics, stem cell biology, immunology and animal models.

Professor PT Liu, School of Biomedical Sciences

Professor Pengtao Liu obtained his PhD in Genetics and Development from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, USA. He did postdoc training at National Cancer Institute, NIH (USA). Prof Liu was a faculty member from 2013-2017 at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK, and an affiliated faculty member of Wellcome-MRC Stem Cell Institute of University of Cambridge. Prof Liu recently moved his lab to the University of Hong Kong. Prof Liu’s research interests span both fundamental and translational studies in genetics, single cell genomics, development, stem cell, immunity, cancer and interdisciplinary areas. Prof Liu has research collaborations in UK, Europe, US and China. Various research projects are available in the lab for postgraduate students.


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.