JUSTL participant: Dr Kitman Tsang
Dr Kitman Tsang is a Staff Scientist in Dr Beth Kozel’s laboratory at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD, USA. She was awarded her PhD (Biochemistry) as part of a Graduate-partnership programme (GPP) between The Chinese University of Hong Kong and the NIH. Thus, much of her research was conducted at the NIH under the supervision of Dr Constantine Stratakis (Scientific Director of NICHD), but her PhD was awarded by The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Her mentor at The Chinese University of Hong Kong was Dr Kwok-Pui Fung (now in the School of Biomedical Sciences). Her PhD project involved elucidating the disease-causing mechanism of Carney complex. This is a rare genetic disorder, which is characterized by numerous benign tumors that commonly affect the heart, endocrine system and skin of patients. When she was doing her PhD, Dr Tsang was presented with the NIH Fellow award for Research Excellence on two occasions. After completing her PhD studies, she had her postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Dr Linzhao Cheng at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (with the support of Croucher Foundation and Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund postdoctoral fellowship grants), and then in the laboratory of Dr Asrar B. Malik at the University of Illinois at Chicago supported by the Chicago Biomedical Consortium Postdoctoral Research Grant programme and an American Heart Association Postdoctoral grant.
Dr Tsang has worked in Dr Beth Kozel’s laboratory since mid-2016. She is mainly involved in a project where human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are used to model diseases such as William Syndrome and Supravalvular Aortic Stenosis, and is in the process of developing a patient (iPSC)-based platform for drug screening and mechanistic studies. She is also interested in using cells differentiated from iPSCs to generate transplantable blood vessels in vitro.
Dr Tsang was a participant in the 2010 JUSTL programme. Her mentor was Prof Joseph D Buxbaum (Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY, USA), and for her project she studied the role of the endosomes in the degradation of the shank3 gene in synapses, using zebrafish as an animal model. She was interested in the shank3 gene because in humans, mutations in this gene result in neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder. Dr Tsang found that when the gene was knocked down in zebrafish, the embryos developed with smaller eyes and head, there were abnormalities in the morphology of the brain, and the motility was also affected.
In addition to her laboratory-based work, Dr Tsang attended lectures each morning. “I remember that I attended some lectures related to embryology and interacted with scientists working on regeneration and vessel development. This exposure definitely shaped the beginning of my career in the stem cell biology field. I was amazed by the regenerative potential of some animals. I have always wanted to contribute to society by relieving the burden of diseases in humans. For this reason, I thought it would be great if I could contribute my time and effort to finding possible uses of stem cells in regenerative medicine. That’s how I moved into this exciting field.”
Summing up her time at on the JUSTL programme, Dr Tsang said, “The summer of 2010 in the MBL, Woods Hole was unforgettable. I had a wonderful and fruitful summer.”