Research Project

Pioneering Nanostructure offers New Hope for Treating Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is one of the most common neurodegenerative diseases. It is commonly diagnosed in people over the age of 60 and arises from the degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra, a complex and critical region of the brain. Stem cell therapy is one of the most promising potential treatments. However, conventional neural stem cell culturing techniques require a large number of additional growth factors in a culture medium, and the chemicals used may increase the risk of developing tumours after transplantation.


The pioneering nanomatrix, which was developed by a research team including Professor Ken Yung Kin-lam, Professor of the Department of Biology at HKBU, and Dr Jeffery Huang Zhifeng, Associate Professor of the Department of Physics at HKBU, can induce the rapid and specific differentiation of neural stem cells into miniature substantia nigra-like structures (mini-SNLSs). These mini-SNLSs mainly consist of dopaminergic neurons, and they can replace the damaged or degenerated cells in the substantia nigra in the brain.


The nanomatrix consists of a silica plate coated with a nanostructure layer. There are trillions of nanozigzag structures on the surface which can initiate the growth of neural stem cells into mini-SNLSs without the use of chemical growth factors. The research team carried out further laboratory tests with mini-SNLSs in a rat model; they transplanted mini-SNLSs cultured with the nanozigzag matrix into the brains of rats with Parkinson’s disease that exhibited severe motor asymmetry and rotation, which are major symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Starting from the 8th week of post-transplantation, all of the rats showed improvements and a progressive reduction in rotation. In contrast, rats in the non-transplant group showed no signs of improvement.


The results showed that these mini-brain-like structures exhibited excellent survival and functionality in the brains of rats and resulted in the early and progressive improvement of Parkinson’s disease in rats in vivo. It lays the foundation for research into stem cell therapies that may ultimately cure Parkinson’s disease. The research discovery was published in the academic journal Advanced Science. The research team has been granted a US patent for the nanozigzag matrix.


Professor Ken Yung Kin-lam (right), Professor of the Department of Biology, and Dr Jeffery Huang Zhifeng (left), Associate Professor of the Department of Physics at HKBU
The "physical massage" induces the neural stem cell to differentiate rapidly into the desired neuron. (photograph magnification: 10,000 times)
The research team led by Professor Ken Yung and Dr Jeffery Huang has developed a pioneering nanomatrix that can stimulate neural stem cells to differentiate into nerve cells and can offer help for treating Parkinson's disease.

With the patented silica nanostructure, a self-organised mini-brain-like structure can be developed in only two weeks with the risk of initiating cancer formation substantially reduced.

Research Output

  1. Zhang SQ#, Sun P#, Lin K#, Chan FHL, Gao Q, Lau WF, Roy VAL, Zhang HQ, Lai KWC*, Huang ZF*, Yung KKL*. Extracellular nanomatrix-induced self-organization of neural stem cells into miniature substantia nigra-like structures with therapeutic effects on Parkinsonian rats. Advanced Science. 2019, 6(24): 1901822.


  1. Yung K.K.L., Huang Z.F., Zhang S.Q. Biocompatible Sculptured Extracellular Nanomatrix Enables Self Assembly of Neural Stem Cells into Miniature Brain Organoids of Substantia Nigra, 04-Dec-2018, US provisional patent, Appl. No.: 16/209,934.

Media Coverage

  1. (Xinhuanet)
  2. (Sky Post)
  3. (TimesHigherEducation)
  4. (HKBU)
  5. (HKBU)


  1. Gold Medal with Congratulations of Jury Award received at the 46th International Exhibition of Inventions Geneva 第四十六屆日內瓦國際發明展評審團特別嘉許金獎 (文匯報:
  2. Silver award in the 4th China College Students' "Internet+" Innovation & Entrepreneurship Competition 第四屆中國「互聯網+」大學生創新創業大賽銀奬 (文匯報:
  3. Third Prize in the 1st “Beijing-Hong Kong Youth Innovation Cup” Entrepreneurship Competition 第一屆「京港青創杯」 創業大賽三等奬 (千龍網:
  4. Second Price in the Hong Kong Division of “Entrepreneur Star” Competition in Nanshan Innovation 2018 創新南山2018 ‧ “創業之星”大賽香港賽區二等奬 (深圳市南山区人民政府官网:
  5. 2019 TechConnect Innovation Awardee 2019 TechConnect全球創新獎 (大公報:
  6. Third Prize in 2nd “Creation of Youth” Greater Bay Area Youth Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition 第二屆“創青春”粵港澳大灣區青年創新創業大賽三等奬 (文匯報:
  7. Bronze Prize in the 6th “Creation of Youth” China Youth Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition 第六屆“創青春”中國青年創新創業大賽銅奬 (中國青年創新創業板: