Professor Siew NG
Department of Medicine & Therapeutics
Siew NG is a professor at the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, CUHK and Honorary Consultant at the Prince of Wales Hospital, Hong Kong.
When inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a lifelong and debilitating gastrointestinal condition, began to increase in Asia two decades ago, the causes were still a mystery. When Siew NG joined CUHK in 2010 after obtaining her PhD at Imperial College London, she witnessed the explosion of this ‘western’ disease in Asia and began her quest to crack it.
NG’s team was the first to launch the Asia-Pacific Crohn’s and Colitis Epidemiology Study (ACCESS), which, for the past five years, has tracked several thousands of new cases of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis — the two major forms of IBD — across 15 countries in Asia, as well as Australia. Their studies have revealed that the disease progression of IBD, in both the West and the East, is driven by the interplay of an abnormal immune response and gut microbes. Having identified specific microorganisms that may contribute to the disease, NG and her collaborators also suggested environmental exposures that can be modulated for disease prevention. These revelations are now being used to develop targeted therapies for IBD.
The ideal time to tease apart the complex web of environmental triggers and genetic associations, says NG, is before the IBD incidence peaks, when urbanization is happening. “We are going into rural areas of China where IBD is still rare,” says NG. “We are studying how the environment, diets and gut microbes of rural people differ from those living in China’s megacities.”
NG’s team is using new approaches, such as genomics and microbiomics, to unlock the aetiology, or set of causes, underlying IBD. “The golden time for identifying the cause of the disease is the next ten years,” says NG. “We need to seize this golden opportunity now”.
- Professor Siew NG Biography
- Much To Stomach: Siew Ng asks why inflammatory bowel disease takes root in Asia