THE ZHU LAB
The Zhu lab aims to accelerate biological research by developing and combining enabling technologies as a means of solving pressing clinical problems in gene- and cell-based therapies. Currently, we have the following research fields. Click here to learn more.
Neurological disorders have become enormous societal burdens as overall human life expectancy has increased. Dysregulation of neuroinflammation has implicated in multiple disorders, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, etc. Two major challenges that prevent effective therapies are 1) a lack of robust and specific targeting tools for accessing and manipulating the brain cells; and 2) an incomplete understanding of molecular and genetic mechanisms underlie the pathobiology of cellular behaviors in nervous system. To tackle these challenges, we take advantage of cutting-edge engineering tools and genomic technologies to study and modulate neuroinflammation, enabled by developments in AI-based vector engineering, next-generation single-cell sequencing, on-demand dynamic biomaterials design, and CRISPR-based functional genomics.
Gene therapy, the delivery of genetic material to the cells of a patient for therapeutic benefit, has been increasingly successful over the past decade. The most successful delivery vectors in clinics nowadays are based on adeno-associated viruses (AAV). Although these natural viruses are non-pathogenic, the efficiency and cellular targeting are suboptimal and need further improvement. Significant progress must still be made before these developing strategies become therapeutic realities for human applications.
While animal models of brain biology have provided important insights, key differences in diseases pathology between animal models and humans have impeded the translation of these findings into successful therapeutics. Our overall goal is to develop better model systems that can be used to uncover the mechanistic and functional understandings of human brain diseases and to identify points of cell-type specific vulnerability for novel therapeutics.