School of Applied Science Student's Project

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Understanding the Mechanism of Hepatocellular Carcinoma to Develop Better Treatments

Liver cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death globally and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) accounts for 90% of all primary liver cancers in humans. Currently, drugs approved for the treatment of HCC have limited effectiveness and poor survival benefits in patients.  Hence there is a need to develop alternative therapies with better clinical outcomes.  However, to do so, it is important to first understand the disease mechanism in order to develop better treatment options for HCC. 

 

Justin Tang Jit Hin, a Diploma in Pharmaceutical Science graduate from the class of 2020, completed his 26-week Student Internship Programme (SIP) at The N.1 Institute for Health (N.1), National University of Singapore.  Being in this final year, he also worked on his Major Project there at N.1, studying the role of STAT3, a protein that is involved in many types of cancers such as in HCC.  During his internship, Justin wrote a review paper on “JAK/STAT Signaling in Hepatocellular Carcinoma” that was subsequently published in the reputed scientific journal, Hepatic Oncology in March 2020.

Making Sustainable Alternative of Dairy Free Soy Frozen Yoghurt

   

Frozen yoghurt has been gaining popularity in Singapore with stores serving artisanal soft serve frozen yoghurts.  Though still at the infancy stage in the Asian market, frozen yoghurts are also packed in tubs and sold in supermarkets but with limited variety.  Most brands claim health benefits stating that they contain live cultures or probiotics, but in reality some are high in sugar though lower in fat.  Thus they lack the health benefits other than the presence of probiotics. In fact the survival of probiotics in frozen yoghurts is important to support the therapeutic image of the product since they need to impart the health benefits such as the regulation of intestinal flora and improvement of the immune system.

Students from the Diploma in Applied Food Science and Nutrition did their Major Project on developing a novel soy-based frozen yoghurt using a symbiotic approach (that is using probiotic culture and prebiotics).   Ensuring that a minimum viable microbe count was met in the frozen yoghurt, this allowed their product to substantiate the benefits of probiotics to human health when consumed.  The project also reviewed the synergistic effects of the different food additives used in the formulation, as well as effects of other factors, including fermentation time, post acidification, and microbial count.  Various tests were also performed such as pH, viscosity, overrun, meltdown and sensory evaluation.  The survivability of probiotics in frozen yoghurt was also evaluated and tested via microbial testing.  During which, it was discovered that inulin was able to increase the survivability of the probiotics in the dairy frozen yoghurt at freezing temperature.  It was also able to impart a satisfactory mouthfeel and texture that mimics the bulking property of sugar.  This was confirmed through a sensory evaluation by a set of panellists that commented on the soy frozen yoghurt flavour resembling that of soy ice cream with a beany flavour.   

 

The formulation also included alternative sweeteners such as sugar alcohols and stevia to achieve a ‘Low in Sugar’ claim.  It also achieved other claims such as being ‘Low in Fat’ and ‘High in Fiber’.   A first of such in our local market!

How Loss of Binding Protein Disrupts Brain Development of Mouse

A glimpse of my workplace. Left: Dry laboratory; Right: Wet laboratory

A sharing by Cheryl Phua, a 3rd year student from the Diploma in Veterinary Technology about her 26-week experience of Student Internship Programme (SIP) along with Major Project (MP).

 

The MP focused on the function of TDP-43, a deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) / ribonucleic acid (RNA) binding protein that plays an important role in the development of the central nervous system (CNS), and this was further investigated in TDP-43 knock-out mice.  Both histological staining and immunofluorescence staining were performed on the brain tissues, and it was discovered that certain morphological deficiencies were present in the mutant mice embryos. The morphological defects discovered in the mutant mice include intracerebral haemorrhage, reduction of ganglionic eminence (GE), and thinning of the cortex.

 

For my SIP, I was given the roles and responsibilities like any other polytechnic intern at Prof. Ling’s Lab, and those were similar if not identical to that of a research assistant.  I was mainly assigned to investigate how the loss of TDP-43 in CNS precursors disrupts the development of the brain. For that, I needed to perform staining and quantification for an ongoing project in the laboratory. In addition, the day-to-day tasks included the upkeep of laboratory equipment and weaning the mice owned by the laboratory. 

 

During this attachment, I picked up some research techniques that I had not previously heard of.  These techniques were perfusion, immunofluorescence staining, and confocal microscopy imaging.  Although it was a steep learning curve for the first month of the attachment, I was able to adapt quickly and was soon assigned tasks that I was allowed to complete independently.  Apart from acquiring laboratory technical skills, I was also given many opportunities to improve my soft skills, such as my communication and presentation skills.  I greatly appreciated the chance to improve these skills as they are very much required for both my course of study, and when I enter the work force in the future.  The skills I had learnt during my two and a half years of studies (before the SIP) were also extremely helpful as we were taught many basic technical skills required for work in a laboratory, as well as how to handle different animals including mice. 

Turn Food Waste to Gold


Recycling food waste into useful products 

According to Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA), the amount of food waste generated in Singapore has increased by about 20 per cent over the past 10 years and is expected to increase with our growing population and economic activity. This is not only happening locally but regionally too. 

 

The current approach of disposing food waste is via incineration which is both wasteful and not sustainable. Various types of food waste have their unique properties and hence can be transformed to make a variety of useful products. 

Making compost from food waste
Sustainable building materials from food waste
Extraction of healthy compounds from fruit peels

Together with our research team from the Centre for Urban Sustainability (CUS), our students from the Diploma in Chemical Engineering did just that!  Through their involvement in various projects and adopting chemical and biological approaches, they learnt to turn post-consumption food waste from our canteens to compost.  They also used food by-products as part of making sustainable building materials, as well as used utilized fruit peels to develop some health products too!

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