Zongchao Han, M.D., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor Adjunct Assistant Professor

The Zongchao Han, Ph.D., M.D., laboratory is interested in developing gene therapies for retinal diseases. Han’s lab is particularly interested in understanding the gene expression patterns that are regulated by the cis-regulatory elements. Some important regulators, such as enhancers, are outside of the core promoter and transcription factors. These non-coding DNA sequences can spread over large distances, making it difficult for a designed vector and its therapeutic gene to mimic. We utilize compacted DNA nanoparticles (NPs) which have the ability to transfer large genetic messages to overcome various technical challenges and to evaluate the translational potential of this technology.

Another interest of the Han laboratory is to produce a multifunctional NP carrier for specific and efficient gene/drug targeting. They are developing a new nano-delivery system that has the capability of carrying multiple imaging, targeting, and therapeutic moieties to restore vision or to target tumor. These NPs have the ability to transfer larger and more complex genetic messages to overcome these disorders than other current gene therapy options. Han’s lab expects to build a smart molecularly engineered image-guided NP carrier capable of overcoming extracellular and intracellular barriers for delivering the therapeutic gene/drug to the desired cell population.

Research Focus:

  • NPs as a gene/drug delivery system for retinal disorders
    • NP-based large gene delivery for retinitis pigmentosa
    • Tumor-directed NP delivery for retinoblastoma
    • Gene targeting diabetic retinopathy
  • Developing formulation-specific and customizable multifunctional NPs
  • Drug-gene design and optimization