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Zhen Xu

Zhen Xu

Regular Member

Assistant Professor

[email protected]
Medical School Expansion - R444

The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
McGovern School of Medicine
Department of Neurosurgery

An aneurysm represents a localized and weakened dilation of a blood vessel wall. Within the cerebral context, aneurysms can manifest in any intracranial blood vessel, although they tend to predominantly occur within the arterial network at the base of the brain. This anatomical region is situated in the subarachnoid space and has notable clinical significance due to the potential rupture of cerebral aneurysms. Cerebral aneurysm rupture causes subarachnoid hemorrhage, which is an event of considerable morbidity and mortality in stroke patients. The current therapeutic landscape for cerebral aneurysms primarily encompasses neurosurgical modalities, such as clipping, endovascular coiling, or flow diversion. Our research laboratory is committed to pioneering novel therapeutic strategies to address aneurysmal pathogenesis. Specifically, we are engrossed in deciphering the intricate signaling mechanisms contributing to the disease.

 A well-documented aspect of cerebral aneurysms is their association with familial predisposition. Despite the identification of candidate genes across various patient cohorts over the past decades, validation through animal models remains limited. To address this, our laboratory employs zebrafish and murine models, having developed innovative genetic frameworks for investigating cerebral aneurysms. Furthermore, we are dedicated to unraveling the complex interplay between other risk factors—such as smoking, hypertension, aging, and gender differences—and their roles in cerebral aneurysm pathogenesis. A principal focus of our research endeavors involves the development of refined animal models that faithfully recapitulate the intricate pathophysiology of cerebral aneurysms under diverse challenging conditions. These models are instrumental in shedding light on novel signaling pathways, which in turn may yield innovative therapeutic targets. Specifically, our ongoing research trajectory is centered upon elucidating the role of dysregulated endothelial function in the initiation, growth, and rupture of cerebral aneurysms. We hypothesize that perturbed signaling crosstalk between endothelial cells and their extracellular matrix compromises vascular integrity, thus contributing to aneurysm development. Through the integration of dual animal models and in vitro primary endothelial cultures, we are actively dissecting the underlying molecular underpinnings. Moreover, our laboratory harnesses advanced in vivo imaging platforms—such as MRI, two-photon microscopy, and micro-CT—to dynamically monitor cerebral vascular pathophysiology, further enriching our investigative capabilities.


Education & Training

PhD - Tsinghua University - 2005