Zhen Zhao, PhD

Zhen Zhao received his Ph.D. from the Neuroscience Graduate Program at USC in 2009, where he investigated axonal branching as a fundamental step in establishing neuronal connectivity and plasticity during early neurodevelopment and identified extracellular natriuretic peptide hormones that precisely control sensory neuron branching patterns in the spinal cord. He later worked with Dr Berislav Zlokovic for a better understanding the vascular contributions to neurodegenerative diseases. As part of Zlokovic’s team, he defined the role of PICALM in brain clearance of Alzheimer’s amyloid peptides, as well as the role of brain pericytes in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease and cerebral small vessel disease. He established his own research lab at USC in 2017, and his team is keen to understand the functions of Alzheimer’s risk genes in our central nervous system. His research objective is to explore the genetic, molecular and cellular mechanisms of neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease, understand the crosstalk between the components of the neurovascular unit in health and during pathogenesis, and discover new approaches to restore the neurovascular and neuroimmune functions for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.