Hao Zhu, PhD

Hao Zhu, PhD
Associate Professor
University of Kansas Medical Center 

Hao Zhu is an Associate Professor at Clinical Laboratory Sciences, University of Kansas Medical Center.

As a molecular biologist and biochemist, he conducts basic research using animals and cells to study disease pathways, especially those related to diabetes and neurological conditions

. In his current role, he has mentored four doctoral students and served on thesis committees for more than 25 doctoral and master students. He attended Fudan University in China as an undergraduate majoring in Genetics and Genetic Engineering.

He earned his PhD in Zoology at University of Texas at Austin before completing his postdoctoral research training at Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital. His research background covers a wide range of topics, from structure and function of heme-containing proteins to hypoxic sensing, lipid and iron metabolism in animal cells.

Potential use of CRISPR editing to correct disease-associated variants in mitochondrial genome

Studies over the past two decades have established a role for mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variants in hearing loss, diabetes, and multiple neurological conditions. Recently, associations between mtDNA single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and Alzheimer’s disease have also been proposed. While techniques that enable the study of nuclear-encoded mitochondrial proteins are available (CRISPR, clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats; TALEN, transcription activator-like effector nuclease), methods for studying the effects of mtDNA variants, and specifically the generation of mtDNA “transgenic” cell lines and animals, remains limited and indirect. To date, there is only one study that reports successful mtDNA editing by CRISPR in cells, which illustrates a significant gap in our ability to address fundamental questions relating to the role of mtDNA in human diseases. To bridge this gap, our lab recently developed a method that enables the import of RNA and proteins into mitochondria. Combining our ability to use CRISPR to edit nuclear DNA, we are developing an mtDNA-targeting CRISPR approach by achieving mitochondrial import of Cas9 protein and guide RNA. Strategies and preliminary results will be discussed and presented at the talk.