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Suisha Liang: "I hope to help develop therapeutics for people struggling with mental health"

Our newest PhD graduate Dr. Suisha Liang shares with us her experience studying the gut microbiome in Hein Min Tun's team at HKU-Pasteur over the past 4 years. Congratulations Dr. Liang!

Suisha Liang began her study of the gut microbiome in 2010 by working as an Associate Researcher of Bioinformation and participated over the years in a wide range of studies centred around the gut microbiome, including gene catalog studies for humans, mice, pigs and chickens, all that in various environmental contexts. In addition, she investigated the correlation between the gut microbiome and diseases like type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, and coronary artery diseases, gaining extensive experience in bioinformatics analysis. As our knowledge of the gut microbiome is evolving, Suisha noticed the importance of conducting deeper mechanistic research using advanced statistical analysis methods, and decided to join Hein Min Tun's lab at HKU-Pasteur in 2019 to study the gut-brain axis.

Since then, Suisha has participated in several projects aiming to provide a comprehensive analysis on the impact of gut microbiota on mental health. She explains her research: “I conducted a multi-cohort study to identify generalizable bacterial biomarkers for depression using consistent methodology in different cohorts. We also collaborated with FAMILY Cohort and tried to determine bacterial differences in the local population and build an objective classifier to identify mild depression and depression from non-depression cases in a native population in Hong Kong. Once the association between the gut microbiome and depression was established, I aimed to prove its causal effect through a longitudinal HKU student cohort and a mice model study. These studies showed that the gut microbiome does have a causal effect on depression”.

Her group investigated the role of the gut microbiome in non-pharmacological interventions for mental health, and their two cooperative intervention studies showed that nature connectedness, meditation, and yoga have a positive effect on mental health, with the gut microbiome playing a crucial role in this process.

Suisha looks back on her experience, saying that: “through these studies and the courses I took during my PhD, I have gained extensive experience in statistical analysis and I have developed wet lab and mice handeling skills. While conducting my research at the HKU-Pasteur Research Pole, I learned a lot from my supervisors Professor Roberto Bruzzone and Professor Hein Min Tun, as well as from other teams in Pasteur. As we all come from different backgrounds, I could always learn from everyone’s experience and get new ideas for my project”.

She will now join Prof. Tun’s lab at CUHK as a postdoc and keep working on the gut-brain axis, and she hopes that “in the future I can help developing therapeutics for people struggling with mental health”.


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