UNCG Campus Weekly

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Dr. Zhanxiang Zhou

photo of ZhouDr. Zhanxiang Zhou (Health & Human Sciences – Nutrition) received continuation of funding from the National Institutes of Health for the project “Lipotoxicity in Alcoholic Liver Disease.”

Alcoholic liver disease (ALD) is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States. Alcoholic steatosis is the earliest pathological change in the progression of ALD. Deposition of excessive lipids in the hepatocyte generates lipotoxicity, which mediates alcohol-induced liver injury. Zhou and his team found that hepatic free fatty acid (FFA) levels are increased along with triglyceride accumulation in a mouse model of ALD. Cell culture study further demonstrated that FFA-induced cell injury is significantly exaggerated by inhibition of triglyceride synthesis. Findings suggest that FFA rather than triglyceride generates lipotoxicity.

The NIH-funded project aims to gain experimental evidence to support an emerging concept that FFA lipotoxicity is a causal factor in the pathogenesis of ALD. The hypothesis will be tested by carrying out four specific aims: Aim 1 is to dissect the role of FFA from triglyceride in the pathogenesis of ALD; Aim 2 is to investigate the molecular mechanisms by which alcohol increases adipose FA release and hepatic FA influx; Aim 3 is to investigate the molecular mechanisms by which alcohol impairs hepatic FFA clearance; and Aim 4 is to determine if AhR activation mediates FFA lipotoxicity.

Zhou received a bachelor’s from Hebei Agricultural University in China and a master’s from Beijing Agricultural University before completing his PhD at the University of Ehime in Japan. He is co-director of the Center for Translational Biomedical Research.