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Child Health Institute of New Jersey


Dr. Zhiping Pang, Associate Professor of Neuroscience and Cell Biology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, is a neuroscientist with a broad background in neurobiology and stem cell biology. Both his graduate and postdoctoral trainings were under the supervision of Dr. Tom Südhof at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Stanford University, where he mainly focused on elucidating the molecular mechanism of calcium-triggered synaptic vesicle release. Dr. Pang was recruited to Rutgers University in November 2011 and joined the Child Health Institute of New Jersey as a Resident Member. 

His current research focus is on utilizing both mouse and human neurons as model system to study the molecular underpinnings of neuropsychiatric disorders including eating disorders.  The research activity of the Pang Laboratory is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, US-Israel Binational Foundation, Sinsheimer Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Dr. Pang has more than 70 publications with an H-index of 33 (as of October 2019).  He is a recipient of the 2012 Daniel X. Freedman Prize from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation and was recently awarded the NIH BRAIN Initiative grant to develop novel tools for detecting neuropeptide release in the brain.  


Research Interests

Neuroscience; pathogenesis of neurological disorders, including pediatric developmental disorders and autism spectrum disorders

Information flow in the brain is mediated by synaptic transmission, and dysfunctions in synaptic transmission lead to mental disorders, including autism, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and obesity. We use both mouse and human neuronal models to understand the process of regulation of synaptic transmission. We also develop innovative platforms, including microfluidics, biomaterial, and optical sensors, to push the boundary to understand the human brain in health and disease.

  • Using circuit- and cell-type-specific analysis, we have unraveled how melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) functions in the dorsal lateral septum, a region that relays information from the hippocampus. (Liu et al. Nature Neuroscience, 2022). 
  • Using human stem cell-derived neurons as a model system, we have identified the impact of addiction-related gene variants A118G of OPRM1 gene in humans for opiate addiction (Halikere et al, Molecular Psychiatry, 2020) and alcohol (Scarnati et al. Alcohol 2020).
  • We have obtained NIMH support to establish a shared microscope facility that enables multiphoton imaging of neuronal activity and holographic optical stimulation. This facility will greatly assist us in exploring the mystery of the brain.

Research Summary

Research in our laboratory focuses on understanding how the brain functions in health and dysfunction in disease. We study how neuromodulators regulate synaptic transmission in the hypothalamic area. We want to unravel the neural basis of the regulation of feeding, satiety, metabolism, and obesity. Our studies may provide insights into the neural causes and consequences of childhood obesity. We also developed novel techniques for deriving neuronal cells from primary skin cells and pluripotent stem cells, providing novel opportunities to study the pathogenesis of neurological disorders, including pediatric developmental disorders and autism spectrum disorders.

Featured Publications

  • Liu JJ, Tsien RW, Pang ZP. Hypothalamic melanin-concentrating hormone regulates hippocampus-dorsolateral septum activity. Nat Neurosci. 2022 Jan;25(1):61-71. doi: 10.1038/s41593-021-00984-5.
  • Scanati MS, Boreland AJ, Joel M, Hat RP, Pang ZP.  Differential sensitivity of human neurons carrying μ opioid receptor (MOR) N40D variants in response to ethanol. Alcohol. 2020 Sep;87:97-109. doi: 10.1016/j.alcohol.2020.05.004. Epub 2020 Jun 17.
  • Halikere A, Popova D, Scarnati M, Hamod A, Swerdel MR, Moores JC, Tischfield JA, Hart RP, and Pang ZP. Addiction associated N40D mu-opioid receptor variant modulates synaptic function in human neurons. Mol Psychiatry. 2020 Jul;25(7):1406-1419. doi: 10.1038/s41380-019-0507-0.
  • Zhang S, Zhang H, Zhou Y, Miao M, Zhao S., Kozlova A, Shi J, Sanders AR, Wang G, Luo K, Sengupta S, West S, Qian S, Streit M, Avramopoulos D, Cowan CA, Chen M, Pang ZP, Gejman PV, He X, and Duan J. Allele-specific open chromatin in human iPSC neurons elucidates functional disease variantsScience. 2020 Jul 31;369(6503):561-565. doi: 10.1126/science.aay3983.
  • Liu J, Conde K, Zhang P, Lilascharoen V, Lim BK, Seeley R, Zhu JJ, Scott MM, Pang ZP. ­Enhanced AMPA receptor trafficking mediates the anorexigenic effect of endogenous glucagon like peptide-1 in the paraventricular hypothalamus, Neuron, 2017, 96(4):897-909.