Benefactor Campus Experience 2021: From Genetic Switches to Electronic Skin

Director of NUHS Cardiovascular Disease Translational Research Programme Professor Roger Foo Sik Yin sharing lifesaving research findings with benefactors Director of NUHS Cardiovascular Disease Translational Research Programme Professor Roger Foo Sik Yin sharing lifesaving research findings with benefactors

Tackling pandemic fatigue, triggering the self-healing of the heart, gleaning health insights from electronic skin and Kiasunomics© are the key topics of this year’s Benefactor Campus Experience.

On its sixth run, this half-day event held on 28 August 2021, brought the benefactors of the National University of Singapore through a series of specially curated classroom experiences helmed by four world-class researchers.

The insights shared gave benefactors a peek into cutting-edge research and how their contributions towards the University are, in turn, impacting the world.


NUS Medicine, a Gamechanger in Tackling Heart Disease

Professor Roger Foo Sik Yin
Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Professor of Medicine
NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine

Invited speaker Prof Roger Foo Sik Yin passionately shared how he is seeking to redefine what is possible in medicine.

There is an alarming rise in the rate of heart failure globally, with the burden of heart failure in Asian countries remarkably higher than that of the rest of the world. Despite undergoing treatment for their condition, heart failure patients still live with a lower functioning heart for life.

Unless patients undergo a heart transplant or attach an assistive device to their heart, their heart function cannot be restored, as most available medical treatments only address the disordered physiological processes associated with heart failure.

Discontent with the limitations of medical science, Prof Foo’s research aims to solve the root issue, which is restoring heart function.

In his research on altering gene programmes, Prof Foo seeks to uncover a magical genetic “switch” that he can flick to push the heart towards self-healing. By reprogramming cells, a heart’s scar tissues can turn into well-functioning heart muscle tissue.

Pairing this with the discoveries of other NUS cardiovascular researchers and the National Precision Medicine Programme, the School is set to reduce the incidence of heart failure, optimise care for patients and reverse the effects of heart failure.

Needless to say, this next-generation medicine is a gamechanger that carries the promise of making a lasting impact on human health globally.


Pandemic Fatigue and Mental Resilience in the Time of Covid-19

Professor Kua Ee Heok
Tan Geok Yin Professor in Psychiatry and Neuroscience
NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine

In a long-drawn battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, many are experiencing a condition recently coined as “pandemic fatigue”, which is characterised by insomnia, irritability and “the blues”, among other symptoms, said Prof Kua.

In his classroom experience, Prof Kua shared how to look out for mental health risks and “seven habits to prevent COVID-Anxiety”.

Armed with valuable tips on the importance of exercise, building a solid social support network, recreation and mindfulness, benefactors are now better equipped to face this COVID-19 endemic phase with greater mental resilience.

Professor Kua Ee Heok sharing about the curious relationship between our gut and brain
Professor Kua Ee Heok sharing about the curious relationship between our gut and brain

 
Kiasunomics©: Stories of Singaporean Economic Behaviours

Professor Sumit Agarwal
Low Tuck Kwong Distinguished Professor
NUS Business School

In the next classroom, Prof Agarwal shared research insights into unique Singaporean economic behaviours covered in his book, Kiasunomics©.

His study uncovered unexpected economic correlations to the day-to-day behaviours of Singaporeans. For instance, he shared how household energy consumption varies based on their distance from hawker centres, how pollution influences productivity, and even how people’s spending patterns change after learning that their neighbour has gone bankrupt.

These enlightening economic insights, while light-hearted, bear policy implications on transportation, health, housing and retirement issues in Singapore.

Author and professor Sumit Agarwal gives a sneak peek into the economic behaviours of the “kiasu” Singaporean
Author and professor Sumit Agarwal gives a sneak peek into the economic behaviours of the “kiasu” Singaporean
 


Electronic Skins as a Window to Health

Assistant Professor Benjamin Tee Chee Keong
President’s Assistant Professor
NUS Faculty of Engineering

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and health are two of the most popular buzzwords of today. But what if we merged the two?

Dr Tee has done just that with his research group, Sensors.AI. In his classroom experience, the 2019 World Economic Forum Young Scientist of the Year gave benefactors a peek into the curious electronic skins his team has developed.

Just like how the human skin is packed with billions of nerve endings, these electronic skins have a network of sensors that can sense temperature, pressure or humidity. Dr Tee’s team applied this electronic skin to prosthetic limbs and robots to give users a more complex sense of touch.

They also developed a self-repairing material that they hope will someday be used to make mobile touchscreens, prosthetics and soft robots that can “heal” themselves from scratches.

Dr Tee and his team are now looking into how these electronic skins can be applied in the clinical context where their sensors can provide insights into an individual’s health.

Indeed, it will be exciting to see how an innovation inspired by Luke Skywalker’s robotic hand will shape the future of our healthcare tomorrow. 

Assistant Professor Benjamin Tee Chee Keong unveils innovations in Health, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics.
Assistant Professor Benjamin Tee Chee Keong unveils innovations in Health, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics.