Xinyu Zhao, PhD

Position title: Professor, Neuroscience, Jenni & Kyle Professor

Xinyu Zhao

PhD, University of Washington
Professor, Department of Neuroscience
Jenni & Kyle Professor in Novel Neurodevelopmental Diseases
Director, Rodent Models Sub-Core

Contact Information

Waisman Center
1500 Highland Avenue
Room T513
Madison, WI 53705
Zhao Lab

Research Statement

The research in our laboratory focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms that regulate neural stem cells and neurodevelopment with the goal of applying this knowledge in the treatment of neurological disorders and injuries.

Stem cells have two fundamental properties: self-renewal and multipotency. During development, stem cells and resulting progenitor cells are responsible for generating all the tissues and cells of an organism. In the adult, stem cells exist in many tissues throughout life and may play critical roles in physiological functions and tissue regeneration. The maintenance of their “stemness” state and commitment to differentiation are tightly controlled by both intrinsic genetic and epigenetic programs and extrinsic stimuli.

Neural stem cells in the postnatal brain have significant roles in both normal brain functions, such as learning and memory and the brain’s response to injuries. My laboratory is investigating the mechanisms governing the behaviors and functions of neural stem cells in both healthy conditions and in neurological diseases.

Epigenetic mechanisms, including DNA methylation, chromatin remodeling, and noncoding RNAs have profound regulatory roles in controlling mammalian gene expression. Disturbance of these interacting systems can lead to inappropriate expression or silencing of genes, causing an array of multi-system disorders. A main focus of my lab research is to understand the epigenetic basis of cell fate specification and neurodevelopment.

Neurodevelopmental disorders are highly heterogeneous constellation of disorders, both in terms of etiology and clinical manifestations. Using neural stem cells as model systems, we are investigating the molecular mechanisms that regulate neuronal development during postnatal period and their implications in human neurodevelopmental disorders such as Rett Syndrome, Autism, and Fragile X syndrome.

Selected Publications