Employing nature’s toolbox: Assoc Prof Wang Xiaomeng

Assoc Prof Wang Xiaomeng has found her scientific calling in studying angiogenesis—how blood vessels develop and grow. “Changes in the vasculature are associated with many major disorders, including blindness-causing eye diseases, arteriosclerosis and cancer,” she says.

As Associate Professor of Molecular Medicine at the Vascular Biology Laboratory in NTU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Assoc Prof Wang is identifying the molecular pathways and cellular mechanisms that modulate, inhibit and promote blood vessel formation. With that understanding, her team devises novel therapeutic approaches for diseases associated with abnormal blood vessel growth.

In one such collaboration with researchers at NTU’s School of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, Assoc Prof Wang developed a contact lens-like eye patch embedded with biodegradable medicine-loaded microneedles that gradually release multiple drugs into the eye. Potential applications for the eye patch include the treatment of glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, proliferative diabetic retinopathy and other eye diseases.

Ten years ago, during a research stint at the UK’s University College London (UCL), Assoc Prof Wang discovered a molecular factor crucial for angiogenesis—leucine-rich alpha-2-glycoprotein 1 (LRG1). In an ongoing collaboration with UCL, she has developed LRG1-targeting antibodies that are being tested in clinical trials for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration.

Assoc Prof Wang is also interested in finding ways to restore blood supply to affected organs and tissues in patients with arteriosclerosis or blocked blood vessels. “Restricted blood flow to major organs or certain areas of the body causes tissue ischemia or organ failure,” explains Assoc Prof Wang. She is searching for the magic cocktail of growth factors that can promote blood vessel formation.

Assoc Prof Wang’s research work has resulted in many inventions and patents, including two international patents for the treatment of vasculoproliferative conditions and cancer. She holds a joint appointment as a principal investigator in vascular biology at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research, and leads a major research programme in retinal angiogenic diseases in a collaboration with the Singapore Eye Research Institute.

The article appeared first in NTU’s research & innovation magazine Pushing Frontiers (issue #16, February 2020). 

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