Peng Zhang MD. MS. is the Principle Investigator of the Targeted Project 4 of the CardioPulmonary Vascular Biology COBRE. He is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Rhode Island Hospital and the Alpert Medical School of Brown University.
Dr. Zhang is a graduate of Shanxi Medical University in China and of University of Rhode Island. After being a physician-scientist for almost 3 years in China, he came to the United States to pursue a career in biomedical science and was appointed Instructor in Medicine in 2008 and Assistant Professor of Medicine in 2010, following his postdoctoral training in the Cardiovascular Research Center of Rhode Island Hospital and the Alpert Medical School of Brown University.
Dr. Zhang has a diverse background in medicine and cellular and molecular biology. His research interests concentrate on cardiac remodeling, with a particular focus on cardiac fibroblasts and their role and regulation in the normal and diseased heart. Cardiac remodeling (defined as changes in size, shape and function of the myocardium in response to stress) is a common feature in many cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases including hypertension, coronary artery disease, inflammation, pulmonary arterial hypertension and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It can impair ventricular function, increase the risk for arrhythmias and often leads to heart failure. While fibroblasts are important cellular targets for treatment of cardiac remodeling, efforts to develop the treatments for cardiac remodeling that specifically target fibroblasts are still at an early stage. The long-term goals of his studies are to advance understanding of the signaling mechanisms that determine cardiac fibroblast function and to devise new therapeutic strategies for cardiac remodeling that ultimately should benefit patients with cardiopulmonary vascular disease.
Dr. Zhang’s work has been supported by Medical Research Grant from Rhode Island Foundation (2010-2011), a Pilot Project Award (2011-2013) from NIH COBRE for Perinatal Biology, and a Seed Fund Award (2013-2014) from NIH COBRE Center for Cancer Signaling Networks. Recently, Dr. Zhang was awarded by the American Heart Association a National Scientist Development Grant (2013-2016), which aims to support highly promising beginning scientists in their progress toward independence. Furthermore, the Targeted Investigator Project that Dr. Zhang was awarded from the CardioPulmonary Vascular Biology COBRE (2013-2018) significantly enhances the research scope in his laboratory and allows him to be able to compete for a NIH R01 grant soon. Dr. Zhang also contributes as a co-investigator in a R01 project on the regulation of Gq signaling in cardiac fibroblasts (2013-2017).
In addition, Dr. Zhang serves as Ad hoc reviewer for many peer-reviewed journals. He also actively participates in teaching at Rhode Island Hospital and Brown University: he serves as a trainer in the MPP (Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology) graduate program of Brown University, participates as a Junior Faculty trainer in a T32 CardioPulmonary Research Training grant, and participates as a mentor in a T35 Research Training grant.
Regulation of Cardiac Fibroblast Function by MicroRNAs
Fibrosis is an integral feature of the structural remodeling in the heart that occurs in response to a variety of cardiopulmonary diseases and can be a consequence of endothelial injury. It can impair ventricular function, increase the risk for arrhythmias and often leads to heart failure. Cardiac fibroblasts become activated in response to many forms of stress and play a critical role in fibrosis development. They are therefore important therapeutic targets, but therapies that specifically target fibroblasts are still at an early stage. Compared to traditional drug targets, microRNAs (miRNAs) offer novel mechanistic possibilities. Despite rapidly increasing insights into their roles in the heart, the understanding of miRNAs in physiological and pathophysiological processes is just emerging. Several miRNAs are known to regulate myocyte hypertrophy, excitation, contraction and survival; yet very little is known about their role in cardiac fibroblasts. The long-term goal of the miRNA research in my laboratory is to gain a better understanding of the functional role and mechanisms of action of miRNAs in cardiac fibroblasts under physiological and pathophysiological conditions. The central hypotheses of this study are (1) that miRNAs are dynamically regulated upon fibroblast activation and thereby regulate cardiac fibroblast function and (2) that miRNA manipulation in cardiac fibroblasts can be leveraged to prevent and/or reverse cardiac fibrosis development. The significance of the proposed study derives from mechanistic explorations that will provide comprehensive insights into miRNA alterations in cardiac fibroblasts in response to stress and to advance our understanding of the functional role and mechanisms of action of key miRNAs in cardiac fibroblasts, which may provide new opportunities for the treatment and prevention of cardiac fibrosis.
Jacob Moeller, BS, Research Assistant
Nedyalka (Nelly) Valkov, BS, MS, Brown University MPP Program PhD Student
Ulrike Mende, MD
Department of Medicine
Rhode Island Hospital
Bharat Ramratnam, MD
Department of Medicine
Rhode Island Hospital
Ocean State Research Institute
Providence VA Medical Center
830 Chalkstone Avenue
Providence RI 02908
Research Funded by
Research reported in this website was supported by the National Institute of General Medical Science of the National Institutes of Health under grant number P20GM103652.