Chuchu Zhang Physiology

Chuchu Zhang, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physiology in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. She received her B.S. in Biochemistry from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. She then received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of California, San Francisco, where she worked with Dr. David Julius studying pain-producing toxins from venomous animals. Her work utilized these natural toxins to identify and manipulate pain-related signal transduction machineries in sensory neurons. Afterwards, she carried out her postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Stephen Liberles at Harvard Medical School, where she started her independent trajectory to study nausea. She focused on a brain structure, the area postrema, which mediates nausea responses to several visceral threats. Her work has uncovered fundamental aspects of the area postrema, including cell types, receptors, and nausea-related neural circuits. The Zhang Lab opens in September 2023 at UCLA.

Research Interests: Molecular and circuit mechanisms of nausea

Nausea is a visceral sensation of malaise that can be evoked by a dizzying array of poisons, pathogens, and diseases. The sensory neuroscience of nausea remains poorly understood despite its clinical importance. The Zhang Lab will primarily focus on the peripheral sensory mechanisms of nausea. We are interested to identify key nausea signal transduction machineries and sensory neurons that mediate the nausea responses. The long-term goals are to understand the physiology, neural circuitry, and molecular mechanisms of nausea in clinically relevant conditions, including food allergy, pregnancy, and radiation. Clinical management of nausea and emesis can often be ineffective. By defining stimulus-specific nausea mechanisms, we hope to understand how to improve current anti-emetic treatments.

To study mechanisms, the Zhang Lab will span molecular biology, cell physiology, organ physiology, neural circuits, and all the way to behaviors. We combine mouse genetics tools with emetic animal models, and we use techniques including in vivo and ex vivo imaging, electrophysiology, natural products screening, and RNA sequencing.

Questions that excite us include: What are the neural types that mediate peripheral detection of nausea cues in the gut? What are the molecular basis (i.e. receptors) for detecting nausea cues? What are the mechanisms that underlie distinct nausea conditions, for example, pregnancy, food poisoning and food allergy?

Honors and Awards

· 2023 Grass Foundation Achievement Award

· 2022 NIH BRAIN initiative K99/R00 Pathways to Independent Award

· 2021 Finalist, Dale F. Frey Award for Breakthrough Scientist

· 2017 Damon Runyon Fellowship Award