Spirit of Hope and Achievement
With over 40 years of experience in the medical field, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) Dean Emeritus Senior Prof Dr Cheong Soon Keng has contributed to a wide knowledge in the area of clinical medicine and pathology. His interest was initially to study stem cells. Prior to his retirement from UKM, he focused on one type of stem cell within the bone marrow known as hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), which form all the types of blood cells in the body.
Referred to as "the cancer of the blood", leukaemia is a progressive disease in which the bone marrow produces increased numbers of immature or abnormal white cells that would damage the blood formation and immune systems. Prof Cheong indicated that the survival rate for a leukaemia patient continues to improve. Now, early treatment with chemotherapy is highly effective for patients to live longer and HSC transplantation has in fact cured many patients.
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), also known as bone marrow stromal cells, are one of Prof Cheong’s current research interests. MSCs are multipotent stem cells also found in the bone marrow, important for making and repairing structural tissues such as cartilage, bone, fat and blood vessel. It was originally Prof Cheong’s new research area just before his retirement in 2005, but he continued to work on these cells and had successfully commercialised the cellular products with industry partners.
Another research that Prof Cheong has recently put in a lot of effort is Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs). His interest in this area came about when a paper regarding this pluripotent stem cell was first published by the Nobel Prize laureate Professor Shinya Yamanaka and his team from Japan.