Research Projects
Role of the Gut Microbiome in Vascular and Brain Health

Programme(s) to which this project applies:

☑ MPhil/PhD ☑ MRes[Med] ☑ URIS

Objective and Significance:

Stroke is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality. Ethnic differences in stroke epidemiology exist. For example, Chinese have a higher prevalence of cerebral small vessel disease, intracranial large artery disease and intracerebral haemorrhage, whilst Caucasians have a higher prevalence of extracranial large artery atherosclerosis and proportion of patients with ischaemic stroke. Reasons underlying ethnic differences in stroke epidemiology however, remains uncertain. Although the gut microbiome has been increasingly implicated in a range of gastrointestinal and metabolic disorders, whether the gut microbiome plays a role in the pathogenesis of cerebrovascular disorders have yet to be explored.

This project aims to investigate the role of the gut microbiome in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases in the Hong Kong Chinese population. Results from this study will provide important insights as to the mechanisms leading to vascular diseases, may potentially explain some of the ethnic differences in stroke epidemiology, and may lead to new strategies in the prevention and treatment of these disorders.

Research Plan and Methodology:

Subjects with no known symptomatic vascular diseases will be recruited. All subjects will undergo baseline assessments including dietary questionnaires, and markers of oxidative stress, systemic and cerebral inflammation will be assessed. Subjects will also undergo detailed vascular assessments as well as brain MRI. Stool samples will be saved and DNA extracted in order to analyse the gut microbiome. Associations between the gut microbiome with diet, markers of inflammation and oxidative stress will be determined. Associations between the gut microbiome with vascular function and MRI markers will be determined. Small randomized controlled trials to determine how modulating the gut microbiome may improve vascular and brain health may be performed.

Professor GKK Lau, Department of Medicine

Gary Kui Kai Lau is currently Clinical Associate Professor in Neurology, Director of HKU Stroke and Director of the Tam Wing Fan Neuroimaging Research Laboratory. He has published over 140 research articles or book chapters relating to stroke, including in reputable journals such as Lancet Neurology, Lancet Infectious Diseases, European Heart Journal, JAMA Neurology, Neurology and Stroke. He has also helped establish a number of programmes to support stroke survivors and families within Hong Kong. 

HKU Scholars Hub
Lab Homepage

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.