Ping Wu, MD, PhD Professor

Wu__2020Department of Neuroscience, Cell Biology, & Anatomy
4.212B Research Building 17
Route: 0654 | Tel: 409-772-9858 |


The Mitchell Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases
Mission Connect TIRR Foundation
Center for Addiction Research


Education and Training

PhD in Neuroendocrinology, UTMB, Galveston, TX
Post-Doctoral in Molecular Neuroscience & Gene Transfer, University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainsville, FL
BM (equivalent to MD), Peking University, Beijing, China

Research Interests

My laboratory has been interested in both basic science research and translational research in the field of neuroscience. Particularly we focus on understanding the molecular mechanisms of plasticity, multipotential and trophic factor secretion of neural stem cells (NSCs); as well as applications of NSCs to model and treat neurological diseases.

To learn the biology of human and rodent NSCs, we focus on cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying fate specification of NSCs and develop novel strategies to guide them to generate specific types of neurons, oligodendrocytes and astrocytes.To model neural diseases, we are interested in applying both human and rodent NSCs and their differentiated neural cells to mimic traumatic brain or spinal cord injury, alcohol and cocaine abuse, neural infection (such as Zika virus, henipavirus, and HIV), and neurodegenerative diseases such ALS. Specific efforts are also devoted to learning the interaction between NSCs and other types of cells in a microenvironment. Our current studies focus on investigating 1) the role of yolk sac microglia in vertical transmission of Zika virus and brain teratogenesis, and 2) the impact of maternal opioid exposure on fetal brain development and offspring behavior.

To treat neural diseases, we use NSCs to screen potential drugs to protect human neurons. We also develop novel strategies to transplant exogenous NSC-differentiated neuronal cells into traumatically injured or degenerated brains and spinal cords, as well as to mobilize endogenous NSCs to replace lost neurons in a cell specific manner.

The outcome of our studies will provide insights towards development of stem cell-related therapy to treat neurological diseases like ALS, traumatic brain and spinal cord injury, neuroinfection and addiction.

Selected Publications

Sowers JL, Sowers ML, Schavkunov A, Hawkins BE, Wu P, DeWitt DS, Prough DS and Zhang K, Traumatic brain Injury Induces Region-specific Glutamate Metabolism Changes As Measured by Multiple Mass Spectrometry Methods. iScience 2021; 24: 103108. PMID: 34622161  PMCID: PMC8479783

Song WY, Ding H, Dunn TJ, Gao J, Allende Labastida J, Schlagal C, Sowers JS, Ning G, Shi-Qing Feng S-Q, and Wu P, Low-dose metformin treatment in the subacute phase improves the locomotor function of a mouse model of spinal cord injury. Neural Regen Res 2021; 16:2234-2242. PMID: 33818507

Schlagal CR, Dunn TJ, Xu P, Felsing DE, Merritt CR, Manja S, Fox RG, Buffington SA, Saade G, Dineley KT, Yu Y, Cunningham KA, and Wu P, Maternal opioid exposure culminates in perturbed murine neurodevelopment and hyperactive phenotype in adolescence. Neurosci 2021; 463:272-287. PMID: 33811940

Xu P, Gao J, Shan C, Dunn TJ, Xie X, Xia H, Zou J, Thames BH, Sajja A, Y, Vasilakis N, Yu Y, Freiberg AN, Vasilakis N, Shi P-Y, Weaver SC, and Wu P, Inhibition of innate immune response ameliorates Zika virus-induced neurogenesis deficit in human neural stem cells. PloS NTD 2021; 15(3):e0009183.  PMCID: PMC7959377

Xu P, Shan C, Dunn TJ, Xie X, Gao J, Allende Labastida J,  Zou J, Villarreal PP, Schlagal C, Yu Y,  Vargas G, Rossi SL, Vasilakis N, Shi P-Y, Weaver SC, and Wu P, Role of microglia in the vertical transmission of Zika virus from mother to fetal brain. PloS Negl Trop Dis  2020; 14:e0008413.

McGrath EL, Schlagal CR, Cortez I, Dunn TJ, Gao J, Fox RG, Stutz SJ, Kuo Y-F, Hommel JD, Dineley KT, Cunningham KA, Kaphalia BS, and Wu P, Chronic poly-drug administration damages adult mouse brain neural stem cells. Brain Res 2019; 1723:146425.

Mitra J, Guerrero EN, Hegde PM, Liachko NF, Vasquez VM, Wang H, Gao J, Pandey A, Taylor JP, Kraemer BC, Wu P, Boldogh I, Garruto RM, Mitra S, Rao KS and Hegde ML 2019 Motor Neuron Disease-Associated Loss of Nuclear TDP-43 is Linked to DNA Double-Strand Break Repair Defects. Proc Nat Acad Sci 116:4696-4705. PMID: 30770445 

Dawes BE, Gao J, Atkins C, Nelson JT, Johnson K, Wu P, and Freiberg AN. 2018 Human neural stem cell-derived neuron/astrocyte co-cultures respond to La Crosse virus infection with proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines. J Neuroinflammation 15:315. PMID: 30442185 

McGrath EL, Gao J, Kuo YF, Dunn TJ, Dineley KT, Cunningham KA, Kaphalia BS, and Wu P, 2017 Spatial and sex-dependent responses of adult endogenous neural stem cells to alcohol consumption. Stem Cell Reports 9:1916-1930. (PMID: 29129682)

McGrath EL, Rossi SL, Gao J, Widen S, Grant AC, Dunn TJ, Azar SR, Roundy CM, Xiong Y, Prusak DJ, Loucas BD, Wood T, Yu Y, Fernández-Salas I, Weaver SC, Vasilakis N and Wu P 2017 Differential responses of human fetal brain neural stem cells to Zika virus infection. Stem Cell Reports  8:715-27 (PMID: 28216147)(PMCID: 5355569)

Gao J, Grill RJ, Dunn TJ, Bedi S, Hetz RA, Xue H, Thonhoff JR, DeWitt DS, Prough DS, Cox Jr CS, and Wu P, 2016 Human Neural Stem Cell Transplantation-Mediated Alteration of Microglial/Macrophage Phenotypes after Traumatic Brain Injury. Cell Transplantation 25:1863-1877 (PMID: 26980267). 

Barrows NJ, Campos RK, Powell S, Prasanth KR, Schott-Lerner G, Soto-Acosta R, Gaddiel Galarza-Muñoz1, McGrath EL, Urrabaz-Garza R, Gao J, Wu P, Menon R, Saade G, Fernandez-Salas I, Rossi SL, Vasilakis N, Routh A, Bradrick SS and Garcia-Blanco MA, 2016 A screen of FDA-approved drugs for inhibitors of Zika virus infection. Cell Host Microbe. 20:259-270 (PMID 27476412).

Wang, E., Gao, J., Denner, L., Dunn, T., Parles, M., Zhang, L. and Wu, P. Molecular mechanisms underlying protective effects of neural stem cells against traumatic axonal injury. J. Neurotrauma 29:295-312, 2012.

Ojeda, L., Gao, J., Hooten, K.G., Wang, E., Thonhoff, J.R., Gao, T. and Wu, P. Critical role of PI3K/Akt/GSK3beta in motoneuron specification from human neural stem cells in response to FGF2 and EGF. PLoS ONE 6:e23414, 2011.

Thonhoff, J.R., Lou, D.I., Jordan, P.M., Zhao, X. and Wu, P. Compatibility of human fetal neural stem cells with bioengineering hydrogels in vitro. Brain Res. 1187:42-51, 2008.

Tarasenko, Y.I., Nie, L., McAdoo, D.J., Johnson, K.M., Hulsebosch, C.E., Grady, J.J. and Wu, P. Human fetal neural stem cells grafted into contusion-injured rat spinal cord improve behavior. J. Neurosc. Res. 85:47-57, 2007.

Gao, J., Prough, D.S., McAdoo, D.J., Grady, J.J., Parsley, M.O., Ma, L., Tarasenko, Y.I. and Wu, P. Transplantation of primed human fetal neural stem cells improves cognitive function in rats after traumatic brain injury. Exp. Neurol. 201:281-92 (featured on the cover), 2006.

Gao, J., Coggeshall, R., Tarasenko, Y.I. and Wu, P. Human neural stem cell-derived cholinergic neurons innervate muscle in motoneuron deficient adult rats. Neurosc. 131:257-262 (Rapid Report), 2005.

Xu, Y., Gu, Y., Xu, G.Y., Wu, P., Li, G.-W. and Huang L,-Y. Adeno-associated viral transfer of opioid receptor gene to primary sensory neurons- a novel strategy to increase opioid antinociception. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA 100:6204-6209, 2003.

Wu, P. (corresponding author), Tarasenko, Y.I., Gu, Y., Huang, L.-Y., Coggeshall, R. and Yu, Y. Region-specific generation of cholinergic neurons from fetal human neural stem cells grafted in adult rat. Nat. Neurosci. 5(12):1271-1278, 2002.

Link to PubMed Publications