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Professor CHEUNG, Martin Chi Hang 張知恒

Professor CHEUNG, Martin Chi Hang 張知恒

  • BSc (CUHK); PhD (U of Nottingham)
  • Associate Professor
  • Associate Director (Research and Innovation), School of Biomedical Sciences
L1-50, Laboratory Block, 21 Sassoon Road, Hong Kong
+852 3917 6867
+852 2817 0857
  • Genetic control of neural crest formation, delamination and migration
  • Live cell imaging of neural crest migratory behavior
  • Molecular mechanisms of melanoma metastasis and drug resistance
  • Modelling neurological diseases by cellular reprogramming
  • Research Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Division of Developmental Neurobiology, The National Institute for Medical Research, London, United Kingdom
  • Ph.D., Division of Genetics, The University of Nottingham, United Kingdom
  • B.Sc. Hons (1st), Department of Biochemistry, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

The hallmark of embryonic development is complex genetic regulation of a single cell undergoing rapid growth, migration and differentiation into different cell types. Consequently, dysregulation of developmental program often leads to congenital diseases, tumor initiation and progression. The overarching goal of my research program is to use multiple experimental strategies including animal models, cellular, molecular, biochemical, imaging, organoid and omics approaches to understand genetic control of embryonic development that provide insight into the pathogenesis of tumorigenesis and congenital disorders for the development of therapeutic strategies. In this regard, we are interested in studying the genetic regulation of neural crest progenitors and their derivatives formation and how abnormal regulation of neural crest developmental program contributes to melanoma initiation, progression, and drug resistance. In addition, leveraging our expertise and knowledge, we have further expanded research interest in delineating the molecular mechanism of specific motor neuron degeneration caused by the loss of ubiquitously expressed survival motor neuron protein in spinal muscular atrophy.

Live cell imaging of RHOA biosensor showing a migrating neural crest cell with high RHOA activity in the cytoplasm of the cell rear relative to fluctuating RHOA activity in membrane protrusions at the leading front.



Lab photo

Aug 2022: BBQ in Whitehead
June 2023: Farewell lunch for Tianyuan

June 2022: May received the 40-year long service award
Dec 2023: Lab Christmas Dinner

For further enquiries, please email me:

Representative research articles:

  1. Tan HQ, Miao XF, Luo RX, So J, Peng L, Zhu XX, Xhu L, Chan KM, Cheung M* and Chan SY*. TSPYL1 as a critical regulator of TGFb signaling through repression of TGFBR1 and TSPYL2. (2024) Adv Sci (Weinh) (in press) *(co-corresponding author)

  2. Leung AOW, Poon ACH, Wang X, Feng C, Chen PK, Zheng ZF, To MKT, Chan WCW, Cheung M, Chan D. Suppression of apoptosis impairs phalangeal joint formation in the pathogenesis of brachydactyly type A1. (2024) Nature Commun 15 (1): 2229

  3. Chen YL, Feng XL, Tam KW, Cheung MPL, Chan KKK, Shum DKY, Cheung CW, Chan YS, Cheung M and Liu JA.  Intrinsic and extrinsic actions of human neural progenitors with SUFU inhibition promote tissue repair and functional recovery from severe spinal cord injury. (2024) NPJ Regenerative Med 9 (1): 13

  4. Yu Jing, Wong S, Lin ZN, Shan ZM, Fan CY, Xia ZY, Cheung M, Zhu X, Liu JA, Cheung CW. High-frequency spinal stimulation suppresses microglial Kaiso-P2X7R axis-induced inflammation to alleviate neuropathic pain in rats. (2024) Annals of Neurology

  5. Liu JA*, Tam KW, Chen YL, Feng XL, Chan CWL, Lo ALH, Wu KLK, Hui M-N, Wu M-H, Chan KKK, Cheung MPL, Cheung CW, Shum DKY, Chan YS and Cheung M*. Transplanting human neural stem cells with approximately 50% reduction of SOX9 gene dosage promotes tissue repair and functional recovery from severe spinal cord injury. (2023) Adv Sci (Weinh); e2205804
  6. Hu F, Fong KO, Cheung MPL, Liu JA, Liang R, Li TW, Sharma R, IP PPC, Yang XT and Cheung M*. DEPDC1B promotes melanoma angiogenesis and metastasis through sequestration of ubiquitin ligase CDC16 to stabilize secreted SCUBE3. (2022) Adv Sci 2105226,
  7. Guo D, Wang Y, Cheng Y, Liao S, Hu J, Du F, Xu G, Liu Yq, Cai KQ, Cheung M, Wainwright B, Lu Q, Zhao Y and Yang ZJ. Tumor cells generate astrocyte-like cells that contribute to SHH-driven medulloblastoma relapse. (2021) J Exp Med 218 (9): e20202350.
  8. Yang XT, Hu F, Liu JA, Yu Shan, Cheung MPL, Liu XL, Ng IOL, Guan XY, Wong KKW, Sharma R, Lung HL, Jiao YF, Lee LT and Cheung M*. Nuclear DLC1 exerts oncogenic function through association with FOXK1 for cooperative activation of MMP9 expression in melanoma. (2020) Oncogene
    Behind the paper:
  9. Liu JA, Tai A, Hong JL, Cheung MPL, Sham MH, Cheah KSE, Cheung CW and Cheung M*. Fbxo9 functions downstream of Sox10 to determine neuron-glial fate choice in the dorsal root ganglia through Neurog2 destabilization. (2020) Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 117(8): 4199-421,
    Press release: HKUMed discovers new molecular mechanism in determining sensory neuron which paves the way for new therapeutic opportunities
  10. Wu Z, Rao Y, Zhang S, Kim EJ, Oki S, Harada H, Cheung M and Jung HS. Cis-control of Six1 expression in neural crest cells during craniofacial development. (2019) Dev Dyn 248 (12): 1264-1272.
  11. Yang XT, Liang R, Liu CX, Liu JA, Cheung MPL, Liu XL, Man OY, Guan XY, Lung HL and Cheung M*. Sox9 is a dose-dependent metastatic fate determinant in melanoma. (2019) Journal of Experimental and Clinical Cancer Research 38: 17,
  12. Wang YX, Liu JA, Leung KK, Sham MH, Chan D, Cheah KSE and Cheung M*. Reprogramming of mouse calvarial osteoblasts into induced pluripotent stem cells. (2018) Stem Cells International Article ID 5280793,
  13. Liu JA, Rao YX, Cheung MPL, Hui MN, Wu M-H, Chan LK, Ng IOL, Niu B, Cheah KSE, Sharma R, Hodgson L and Cheung M*. Asymmetric localisation of DLC1 defines avian trunk neural crest polarity for directional delamination and migration. (2017) Nature Commun 8(1): 1185,
    (Press release in the Faculty homepage:
  14. Wang YX, Wu MH, Cheung MPL, Sham MH, Akiyama H, Chan D, Cheah KSE and Cheung M*. Reprogramming of dermal fibroblasts into osteo-chondrogenic cells with elevated osteogenic potency by defined transcription factors. (2017) Stem Cell Reports 8(6): 1587-1599. 
  15. Carrasco-Garcia E, Lopez L, Aldaz P, Arevalo S, Aldaregia J, Egana L, Bujanda L, Cheung M, Sampron N, Garcia I and Matheu A. SOX9-regulated cell plasticity in colorectal metastasis is attenuated by rapamycin. (2016) Sci Rep 6:32350.
  16. Kam MKM, Cheung M, Zhu JJ, Cheng WWC, Sat EWY, Tam PKH and Lui VCH. Perturbation of Hoxb5 signaling in vagal and trunk neural crest cells causes apoptosis and neurocristopathies in mice. (2014) Cell Death & Differentiation 21: 278-289.
  17. Liu JA, Wu MH, Yan CH, Chau BK, So H, Ng A, Chan A, Cheah KS, Briscoe J and Cheung M*. Phosphorylation of Sox9 is required for neural crest delamination and is required downstream of BMP and canonical Wnt singlaing. (2013) Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 110 (8): 2882-2887.

(*Corresponding author)


Review articles:

  1. Tianyuan S and Cheung M*. Urine-derived pluripotent/neural stem cells for modeling neurological diseases. (2021) Cell & Bioscience 11(1): 85,
  2. Cheung M, Tai A, Lu J and Cheah KSE. Acquisition of multipotent and migratory neural crest cells in vertebrate evolution. (2019) Current Opinion in Genetics & Research 57: 84-90,
  3. Liu JA and Cheung M*. Neural crest stem cells and their therapeutic applications. (2016) Dev Biol 419 (2): 199-216. (Highlighted article in the journal homepage)
  4. Tsang KY, Cheung M, Chan D and Cheah KSE. The developmental roles of the extracellular matrix: beyond structure to regulation. (2010) Cell and tissue research 339 (1): 93-110.

(*Corresponding author)

  • Research Impact Fund (PC: 2023/24)
  • Seed Fund for Collaborative Project (2022/2023)
  • NSFC General Program (PI: 2020-2023)
  • Liu Po Shan/Dr Vincent Liu Endowment Fund for Motor Neurone Disease (2018/2019), (2021-2022)
  • HMRF (PI: 2018, 2019)
  • RGC General Research Fund (PI: 2010, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022)
  • Hong Kong Scotland Collaborative Research Scholarship (PI: 2014)
  • RGC Early Career Scheme (PI: 2014)
  • Theme-based Research Scheme (Co-I: 2014-2019)
  • Seed Funding for Basic Research (PI: 2008, 2012, 2014-2022)

  • Faculty Outstanding Research Output Award 2018 (in the capacity of corresponding author), The University of Hong Kong
  • Research Output Prize 2010 (in the capacity of co-author), The University of Hong Kong
  • Mr Lo Lok Hang Amos (Technical Officer)
  • Dr Tianyuan Shi (Postdoctoral Fellow)
  • Dr Zhengfan Zheng (Research Assistant)
  • Ms Han Lin Chang (Research Assistant)
  • Mr Bowen Fu (PhD student, 2024 - )
  • Mr Dennis Pang (HKU Presidential PhD Scholarship, PhD student, 2022 - )
  • Ms Jia Ying Ng (PhD student, 2021 - )
  • Mr Umar Patel (HKPF awardee, PhD student, 2020 - )
  • Ms Zihan Xu (UPF awardee, PhD student, 2020 - )
  • Mr Darsh Arvindbhai Vaghani (MPhil student, 2022 - )
  • Mr Park Yeh John (MBBS yr 4, Master of Medical Research)
  • Ms Haylee Tam (Research Assistant)
  • Ms Jasmine Chae (MBBS yr 3, Master of Medical Research) 
  • Mr Wong Chi Lok (Anson) (BSc yr 4, URFP and Final Year Project 2024/2025)
  • Ms Chung Sum Yin (Kiri) (BBMS yr 2, Student Research Assistant)
  • Ms Wang Yanhan (Lily) (BBMS yr 1, summer internship)
  • Ms Lily Wang (BBMS yr 1, summer research internship)
  • Ms Michelle Huang (BBMS yr 2, summer research internship)
  • Mr Ho Ka Chun (Research Assistant)
Dr. Tianyuan Shi Postdoctoral Fellow The 2024 ISSCR Abstract Merit Award
Dr. Tianyuan Shi Postdoctoral Fellow The 2024 ISSCR Travel Award


Mr. Dennis Pang 2nd year PhD student Developmental Dynamics Travel Award Sponsorship
Mr. Dennis Pang 2nd year PhD student Prize for Best Poster Presentation in NeuCrest Conference, France on 3rd-6th March 2024
Dr. Feng Hu PhD Graduate 2022 HKU Foundation Publication Award for Research Postgraduate Students 2023
Mr. Dennis Pang 2nd year PhD student HKPS awardee 2022
Miss Feng Hu 4th year PhD student Oral Presentation Award at the 2022 Hong Kong Inter-University Postgraduate Symposium in Life Science
Miss Feng Hu 4th year PhD student Yu To Sang and Yu Shing Keung Memorial Fund Scholarships 2021/22
Miss Feng Hu 4th year PhD student Wong Ching Yee Medical Postgraduate Scholarship 2021/22
Miss Feng Hu 4th year PhD student Best oral presentation award at the 26th Research Postgraduate Symposium, HKUMed
Miss Feng Hu 4th year PhD student Poster presentation prize at the 25th Research Postgraduate Symposium, HKUMed
Miss Zhengfan Zheng 4th year PhD student Poster presentation prize at the 25th Research Postgraduate Symposium, HKUMed
Miss Xu Zihan 2nd year PhD student University Postgraduate Fellowship (UPF) 2020/2021
Mr Umar Patel 3rd year PhD student HKPF awardee 2020
Dr Xintao Yang PhD graduate in 2019 YS and Christabel Lung Postgraduate Scholarship (2018/2019)
Dr Yanxia Rao PhD graduate in 2018 Poster presentation prize at the 22nd Research Postgraduate Symposium, HKUMed


Last update: July 15, 2024