Zhao Lab Members

Heng Zhao, PhD
Associate Professor (Research) of Neurosurgery

Heng Zhao, PhD, received his Bachelor’s degree in 1987 and Master’s degree in 1990 from West China University of Medical Science School of Pharmacy,Chengdu, China. After graduation he worked at the Beijing Municipal Institute for Drug Control for 5 years, where his primary research focused on the quality control of medicinal herbs and chemical ingredient analyses. Thereafter, he shifted his research interest from pharmaceutical analyses to neuropharmacology. He received his PhD degree in Medicine at the Department of Pharmacology, Nihon University School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan in 1999. His major research was measuring the excitatory neurotransmitter, glutamate, direct current (DC) potential and spreading depression (SD) in the ischemic brain, and the protective effect of hypothermia against transient forebrain ischemia. He then joined the laboratories of Dr. Robert Sapolsky and Dr. Gary Steinberg at Stanford University in 2000 for his postdoctoral training. His research focused on gene therapy of Bcl-2, mild hypothermia, apoptotic and necrotic cell signaling pathways in the ischemic brain after stroke. At the end of 2005, he opened his own laboratory in the Department of Neurosurgery. His lab is the first in the world to demonstrate the protective effects of ischemic postconditioning against cerebral ischemia, and he has also pioneered the study of remote pre- and postconditioning in focal cerebral ischemia. More recently, he has advocated the examination of brain injury holistically based on the whole body, rather than to investigate factors that are restricted in the brain only. In his research philosophy, he deems that interactive communication between peripheral organs and the brain plays critical roles in brain injury and recovery. His lab has been studying how circulating lymphocytes and monocytes contribute to brain injury, and to the opposite, how brain injury impacts the immune system.

Research Associates

Xiaoxing Xiong, LSRA

Dr. Xiaoxing Xiong received his M.D degree from Zhejiang University School of Medicine, China in 2008. He joined the Zhao lab in 2009, chiefly studying the roles of the innate (macrophages) and adaptive immunity (T lymphocytes) in brain inflammation and infarction after focal cerebral ischemia. Several stroke models in both rats and mice are used, including transient MCA suture occlusion models and a permanent distal MCA occlusion model. He has utilized a number of immune cell deficient mice to evaluate infarct size, neurological deficits, brain inflammation, and immunodepression, as well as the underlying mechanisms. In addition, he has investigated the protective effects of some compounds that modulate immune functions in stroke models. He has also investigated the role of PRAS 40 in brain injury induced by stroke in PRAS40 gene knockout mice. He has collaborated with a number of lab members to study ischemic postconditioning and with other investigators on campus to generate novel therapeutic strategies for stroke treatment.

Visiting Scholars

Dongmei Yan, MD, PhD

Dr. Dongmei Yan received her MD/PhD degrees from the Norman Bethune College of Medicine, Jilin University, China. She was an immunologist in the Department of Immunology, Jilin University before she joined Zhao lab. Her previous research focus was in the interaction between macrophages activities by BCG and cancer cells, Prostaglandin E2 binding peptide screened by phage displaying and their effect on rheumatoid arthritis. Her current research, in collaboration with Dr. Wonjae Lee, is to investigate the effects of M1 and M2 type macrophages on angiogenesis using 3D culture systems in vitro. She is also going to test how polarized microglia towards M1 and M2 types affect brain injury induced by stroke.

Yifang Fan, MS, MD

Dr. Yifang Fan received her Master’s degree from Beijing Tiantan Hospital, Capital Medical University, China. She previously studied cerebral ischemia and subarachnoid hemorrhage in rats before joining the Zhao lab. Her current research focuses on the roles of CCR-2 mediated macrophages in the protective effects of postconditioning against stroke in mouse models. Additionally, she is collaborating with Dr. Xiong and Zhang to study the potential neuroprotective effects of the peptide inhibitor of CXCL4/CCL5 heterodimer formation, MKEY, in mouse stroke models.

Qiuhong Ji, MS, MD

Dr. Qiuhong Ji received her MD and Master’s degree from Nantong University, China. She is currently working toward her PhD degree in Neurology from her home school, Nanjing Medical University, China. She has been interested in exploring novel treatments for acute stroke and its underlying mechanisms. Her current research focus is to identify specific microglia markers and the effects of stroke on protein expression on these markers.

Yuhua Ji, PhD

Dr. Yuhua Ji received his PhD in 2005 from Jinan University, China. His biomedical research training specialized in the field of cell and molecular biology and system biology. In the past decade, his previous major work was to systemically analyze the molecular mechanism underlying the differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). His current primary research interest is to understand the roles of microglia, the residential macrophage of brain, and the recruited peripheral macrophages during the brain I/R injury. Presently, by using high throughput gene sequencing and proteomic techniques, he is trying to reveal the molecular events that occurred during the activation of microglia and their implications on brain injury and recovery. In addition, he has developed techniques to isolate exosomes from human and animal body fluid, and will use NGS techniques to analyze microRNA biomarkers related with exosomes in stroke patients and animals.

Tao Wang, MD

Dr. Tao Wang received his MD degree from Shandong University School of Medicine, China. He holds a position as a neurosurgical doctor in the department of neurosurgeon of Shanghai 5th hospital, and he is currently working toward his PhD degree from the Shanghai Medical College of Fudan University, China. He joined the Zhao lab in November, 2013 where his primary research focus is to investigate the role of PPAR gamma in the protective effects of ischemic postconditioning against stroke in mouse models.

Yongming Zhang, MD

Dr. Yongming Zhang received his MD degree in Neurosurgery in 2010 from Nanfang Hospital of Southern Medical University, China. He has worked as a neurosurgeon in the Department of Neurosurgery, Anhui Medical University, China. His current research has focused on the roles of classically activated macrophage (M1) in the protective effects of ischemic postconditioning against ischemic brain injury.


David Mundy

Daniel Smerin

A Message to my Lab

I feel lucky to have you working in the laboratory. Recently I read in the Stanford Report that Stanford President John Hennessy spends a lot of time reading a broad range of great works from ancient to modern times, including authors like Homer, Victor Hugo, and Adam Johnson; the latter is a professor and great writer currently working at Stanford. As a computer scientist, he finds great joy and insights from reading these literatures. I also love reading. Whenever I have time, I read. However, I read different books, mainly from Confucius, Mencius, Laozi, and their followers in the past thousands years in China. These books never give me hints about my scientific research. But I absorb virtuous nutrition from these books, which remold me into a stronger, happier, more responsible and more optimistic human being. In addition to these Chinese ancient books, there are a number of books published in the past 100 years in the USA that have had a big, positive impact on my life. Not long ago, I was enlightened by the American writer and philosopher, Christian Larson, whose teachings are similar to those ancient Chinese saints, but expressed from a different angle. I’d like to share this poem from his book titled “Your forces and how to use them”, originally published in 1912. I have also translated them into Chinese, not only for the sake of some of our colleagues who came from China, but also to reinforce my own understanding of the essential message. This poem embodies the philosophy that I strive to cultivate in our lab. And, although I don’t always possess these characteristics, I hope that, together, we can all work towards keeping this promise to ourselves and live this philosophy.


To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.
To make all your friends feel that there is something in them.
To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.
To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.
To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear; and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.
To think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world, not in loud words but in great deeds.
To live in the faith that the whole world is on your side so long as you are true to the best that is in you.