Liqin Zhao Lab

Liqin Zhao Lab

Liqin Zhao
Lab Members
Liqin Zhao Lab Group

Associate Researchers

Heejung Moon, Ph.D.

Associate Researcher | Zhao Lab

  • Ph.D., Bioscience and Biotechnology, Konkuk University, Seoul, South Korea (2011)
  • M.S., Food and Nutrition, Sungshin Women’s University, Seoul, South Korea (2001)
  • B.S., Food and Nutrition, Sungshin Women’s University, Seoul, South Korea (1999)
Research Interests:
  • Roles of PTMs of apolipoproteins in the development of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease

Graduate Students

Punam Rawal

Punam Rawal

Graduate Student | Zhao Lab

  • Bachelor of Pharmacy, Kathmandu University, Dhulikhel, Kavre, Nepal (2016)
Research Interests:
  • Elucidation of role of Apolipoprotein J in Alzheimer's Disease
Xin Zhang

Xin Zhang

Graduate Student | Zhao Lab

  • M.S., Obstetrics and Gynecology, China Medical University, Shenyang, China (2014)
  • B.S., Clinical Medicine, China Medical University, Shenyang, China (2012)
Research Interests:
  • How estrogen signaling and ApoE polymorphisms interact to modulate energy metabolism in neuronal cell models

Former Lab Members

Name Title(s) Post KU
Nadine Alshakhshir
Graduate Student

Ph.D. Program, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL

Anindit Chhibber
Graduate Student

Ph.D. Program, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT

Lucy He
Graduate Student

Assistant Specialist, UCSF, San Francisco, CA

Shaher Ibrahimi
Assistant Researcher

M.S. Program, Kansas City University, Kansas City, MO

Shreya Indulkar, M.S.
Graduate Student

Research Technician, Albany Medical College, Albany, NY

Jeriel Keeney, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Researcher

Postdoctoral Researcher, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI

Kenneth McFarlin
Graduate Student

Research Associate, Vium Inc, San Mateo, CA

Sarah Woody
Graduate Student

Scientist, Citoxlab, Stillwell, Kansas

Long Wu
Graduate Student

Postdoctoral Researcher, UCSF, San Francisco, CA

Research Interests

Sugars play an integral role in building and maintaining brain infrastructure and function. Brain glucose dyshomeostasis has been indicated as a preclinical marker of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The primary focus of our research is directed toward a molecular understanding of how sugars are dysregulated in the pathogenesis of AD. We are particularly interested in understanding how the utilization of sugars in the brain is affected by AD-linked genetic and environmental factors, leading to the development of risk phenotypes for AD. These mechanistic investigations aim to identify the key molecular targets and biomarkers for the translational development of therapeutic strategies toward AD prevention, risk reduction, and early intervention.

In summary, we are currently focused on studies in the following areas:

  • Sex differences in metabolic brain aging
  • ApoE2 regulation of glycolysis and brain resilience
  • The role of sialic acid and sialylation in AD pathogenesis
  • Impact of hyperglycemia on synaptic vesicle physiology
  • Regulation of microglial homeostasis by secreted Clusterin
  • Mitochondria-targeted Clusterin expression and function

The techniques used in our studies include: primary neural cell models (neurons, astrocytes, microglia), human gene stably transfected cell lines, human gene knock-in mouse models, MS proteomics, qRT-PCR arrays, gene cloning, recombinant protein production, synaptic vesicle physiology, mitochondrial biochemistry, fluorescent microscopy, behavioral modeling, and many other general methods commonly used in molecular and cellular biological, pharmacological, and drug discovery research. 


Currently Funded Projects:

NIH: Sporadic Alzheimer’s Disease: A Bioenergetic Etiology?

NIH: ApoE, Energy, and Synaptic V-ATPase

NIH: Role of Clusterin in Brain Mitochondria

J.R. and Inez Jay Fund: ApoE2 as a Therapeutic Shield Against Alzheimer’s Disease: A Proof-of-Concept Study


  • Research Scientist, Molecular Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA (2002-2006)
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship, Beijing Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Beijing, China (2002)
  • Ph.D., Pharmaceutical Sciences, Shenyang Pharmaceutical University, Shenyang, China (1999)

Professional Experience

  • Research Assistant Professor, Research Associate Professor, Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA (2006-2013)
  • Director of Translational Research Laboratory, Director of Core Facilities and Services, School of Pharmacy, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA (2009-2013)


Liqin Zhao’s research focuses on the role of sugars in the pathogenesis of sporadic Alzheimer’s disease. Zhao has authored over 60 research articles, 100 conference presentations, and six patents with four granted. Her laboratory research has been featured by a number of news outlets including USC News, KU News, 6News Lawrence, NPR News, JAMA, Nature Medicine, Society for Neuroscience, and Alzheimer’s Association under Spotlight on Researchers Dedicated to Alzheimer’s.

At the KU School of Pharmacy, in addition to directing a research lab, Zhao teaches in both Pharm.D. and graduate (M.S. and Ph.D.) programs, with a teaching focus on pharmacology of the nervous system. Dr. Zhao also directs the “Beyond the Lab” career development program.

Selected Publications