A research team led by award-winning neuroscientist and structural biologist Prof. ZHANG Mingjie of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has recently reached a breakthrough, unveiling the fundamental mechanism that causes schizophrenia and other serious psychiatric conditions. Such a discovery may potentially lead to the development of new treatments and drugs for the mental disorders. At present, there are about 40,000 diagnosed schizophrenic patients in Hong Kong.


Mutations of DISC1 encoding gene – a human gene that regulates various cellular activities including neurogenesis, or the birth of neurons – are known to have been associated with major psychiatric disorders for over a decade. However, how the DISC1 protein interacts with many other proteins to impact human brain development has remained unknown until recently, Prof. ZHANG and his team uncovered the never before known high-resolution structure of DISC1 protein in complex with Ndel1 – a vital protein for neurogenesis and many other aspects of brain functions. The team found that if the formation of DISC1/Ndel1 complex was disrupted by mutations of the DISC1 gene, neurogenesis will be delayed and thus may cause mental disorders. Read More... 


Prof. ZHANG Mingjie (right) and Prof. YE Fei conduct tests on the human brain organoid specimens derived from schizophrenia patients
Scientific Breakthroughs & Discoveries