Research Projects
Manipulation of Bone Metabolism by Regulating Bivalent Cations in Bone Tissue Microenvironment

Programme(s) to which this project applies:

☑ MPhil/PhD ☒ MRes[Med] ☒ URIS

Bone healing or repair is a biological process that can take weeks to months and patients suffering from bone fractures usually need extended time off work and away from normal activities. In particular, as baby boomers age, osteoporosis and fractures related to fragile bones is becoming a major problem needing urgent attention. There have been many attempts to enhance bone repair by mechanical means such as insertion of metallic implants and biological means such as the use of growth factors. Although anti-catabolic drugs can indirectly induce bone formation by suppressing the osteoclastic activity, atypical bone fractures have been documented sometime when this drug is prescribed to patients for a prolonged period of time. This phenomenon may be attributed to over-suppression of bone turnover that alters the bone strength, thereby compromising the mechanical properties. As many such treatments are accompanied by potential complications, there is extensive search in identifying a safer, more economical, and faster method to enhance bone formation and repair.

Bivalent cations e.g., magnesium has been shown to stimulate bone growth and healing by regulating the osteoblast, osteoclast and macrophage activity. Mg is also actively involved in the mineralisation process which controls bone formation and resorption. However, an excessively high concentration of magnesium is detrimental to osteoblasts and even prevents the formation of the bone extracellular matrix. While Mg ions are naturally found in the human body, it is still unclear why a particular local concentration of Mg is important to the regulation of osteogenesis. Hence, our research team has studied the effects of different concentrations of magnesium on various cell lines including osteoblasts, chondrocytes, and mesenchymal stem cells. The results demonstrate that a specific dosage of magnesium can significantly up-regulate the cellular activities in the cell lines monitored. Hence, our team develops various implantable cation-based bio-composites that enable precise controlled release of magnesium to convince in-situ bone formation. We believe that these discoveries will open up an exciting prospect of using bivalent cations in bone regeneration. This process is potentially cheaper, simpler, and safer than other current approaches.

Professor KWK Yeung, Department of Orthopaedics and Traumatology

Professor Kelvin Yeung is passionate in orthopaedic biomaterial research and his major research areas cover from the design of orthopaedic biomaterials, antibacterial nano-materials, 3D bio-printing as well as musculoskeletal tissue engineering. He trained as materials scientist for his bachelor’s degree and then as an orthopedic scientist in HKU Medical Faculty for his master’s degree and his Ph.D. He has particularly focused to the area of bone-to-implant osseointegration, bone regeneration and antibacterial treatments these years.

He is currently tenured full professor and chief of research division in the Department of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, School of Clinical Medicine, LKS Faculty of Medicine (HKUMed), The University of Hong Kong. His h-index (Scopus) is 70 with 16,000+ citations and 78 (Google Scholar) with 20,000+ citations and i10-index 245. He has also been ranked as the Top 1% Scholars Worldwide in the field of biomaterials by Clarivate Analytics’s Essential Science Indicators (ESI) from 2014-2022 consecutively. In addition to his more than 290 peer-reviewed SCI journal papers published and 41 filed full patents in various countries, he had co-founded the OrthoSmart Limited together with two senior colleagues so as to translate their research findings to clinical use. Furthermore, he has been appointed as the consultants of Hong Kong listed medical and/or biomaterials incorporations.

During these years, he participated in local and regional competitions and received a number of awards and scholarships, including the Young Scientist Award 2005 and the Young Engineer Award 2009 and Faculty Research Output Award 2019. For projects in which he has acted in the capacity of principal investigator or co-principal investigator, he has received over HK$86,200,000. Professor Yeung is also a strong advocator for diversity, equity, and inclusion. He has trained 7 postdocs, 30 Ph.D. students, 19 MS students, and 4 FYP undergraduate students for research and over 50% of them are female, African, or people from middle-east countries. Furthermore, he has received 20 prizes and awards from local and international competitions and conferences. He has been invited to deliver more than 80 plenary lectures, keynotes or invited talks at international and regional conferences. Professor Yeung is an active member of local and international academic bodies and has served in several executive positions. He is also the Associate Editor of Bioactive Materials Journal (Impact factor (2021): 16.874, Ranking: 1/44 in materials science (Biomaterials)), the Secretary and founding member of Chinese Association for Biomaterials (CAB), the Chair of Orthopaedic Biomaterials, Society for Biomaterials (SFB) USA, the past Treasurer of CAB and the past Vice-Chair of SFB Orthopaedic Biomaterials. In addition, he has been appointed as the Warden of HKU Simon K. Y. Lee Hall, where he oversees the student education development.

HKU Scholars Hub

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.