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Q&A with Dr. Alex Ng

10/02/2017

Alex Shu-Wing Ng, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Tufts University School of Medicine and a Research Scientist at Mother Infant Research Institute (MIRI) at Tufts Medical Center. Dr. Ng has prior extensive experience in molecular oncology. His major interest at MIRI is to investigate the mechanisms by which biological processes such as epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and inflammation are temporally and spatially regulated for female fertility and a successful pregnancy. Aberrant disruptions of these regulatory mechanisms may be responsible for pregnancy disorders and even cancer development.  Dr. Ng employs a variety of in vitro and animal models to study noncoding RNA function in female reproduction and pathologies. He currently is focusing on a CRISPR-Cas9 screen to identify key factors that are essential for proper regulation of menstruation and term birth processes, and dysregulations that can result in adverse pregnancy outcomes, increased perinatal and maternal morbidity and mortality. Dr. Ng also pursues biomarker screening in body fluids collected from patients and animal models, which may translate into applications to improve disease prediction, early intervention, a better prognosis and outcome for the patients.    

Q: How did you become interested in the research area you focus on?

A: Through literature searches I found that many of my previous targets in ovarian cancer studies are also involved in female reproductive system. One such example is a microRNA family. My previous study has shown that this microRNA family is involved in the pathogenesis of ovarian cancer. It turns out that the same microRNA family is also involved in female fertility and pregnancy, and its disruption results in adverse pregnancy outcome. My working thesis is that many of these targets are playing a multifaceted role in female reproduction and pathology. I am adopting a holistic systems biology approach to study how the system works in order to have a harmonious reproduction and how disruption of the system leads to pregnancy disorders and potentially cancer development.

Q: What ultimate clinical application or intervention do you think it could have?

A: The holistic systems biology approach may provide insights into how different reproductive constituents work together and how system disruption can result in pathological development. The knowledge gained will enable us to identify applications that can predict disease occurrence, early intervention, and improved outcome.

Q: How did your career and research interests bring you from your native country to the United States?

A: I have been in the United States since I finished my education in Hong Kong and Germany because of the technology advancement and opportunities in this country.

Q: What is unique about the environment at MIRI for furthering your work?

A: MIRI has assembled the best of clinical investigators in the fields of reproductive biology and neonatal care. They are well-versed in both advanced medical therapies as well as the rapidly changing fields of molecular biology and genomics. The ability to initiate clinical trials at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology with rigorous monitoring and guidance will foster direct investigation of research findings and tools and rapid translation into patient care.