Dr Chao Zhao

Chao Zhao

University position

Assistant Director of Research

Dr Chao Zhao is pleased to consider applications from prospective PhD students.


Department of Clinical Neurosciences


Wellcome Trust Centre for Stem Cell Research



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Research Themes

Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

Developmental Neuroscience


My research focuses on mechanism of remyelination of central nervous system following demyelination in various conditions. After demyelinating injury, the system activates a repair process, which involves oligodendrocyte progenitor cells turning into mature myelinating oligodendrocytes to replace the lost myelin sheath of the axons. Failure of this process can result in axonal loss and permanent functional deficits, as seen in diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Understanding the remyelination process, including the regulating factors in injury environment and the cell's intrinsic properties is essential for developing means of enhancing the repair of normally non-repairable clinical conditions. In addition, study of this fine example of involvement of adult stem cells (precursor cells) in repair process is of general interest in regeneration biology. We combine molecular and cellular techniques, genetic approaches and in vivo demyelinating models to dissect this complicated process.

Research Focus





stem cells

Multiple Sclerosis

Clinical conditions

Multiple sclerosis

Traumatic brain injury


Calcium imaging

Electron microscopy

In situ hybridisation


No collaborators listed

Associated News Items

Key publications

Fancy SP, Baranzini SE, Zhao C, Yuk DI, Irvine KA, Kaing S, Sanai N, Franklin RJ, Rowitch DH (2009), “Dysregulation of the Wnt pathway inhibits timely myelination and remyelination in the mammalian CNS.” Genes Dev 23(13):1571-85 Details

Zhao C, Fancy SP, Franklin RJ, ffrench-Constant C (2009), “Up-regulation of oligodendrocyte precursor cell alphaV integrin and its extracellular ligands during central nervous system remyelination.” J Neurosci Res 87(15):3447-55 Details

Zhao C, Fancy SP, ffrench-Constant C, Franklin RJ (2008), “Osteopontin is extensively expressed by macrophages following CNS demyelination but has a redundant role in remyelination.” Neurobiol Dis 31(2):209-17 Details

Zhao C, Li W-W, Franklin RJM (2006), “Differences in the early inflammatory responses to toxin-induced demyelination are associated with the age-related decline in CNS remyelination” Neurobiol Aging 27(9):1298-307

Arnett HA, Fancy SPJ, Alberta JA, Zhao C, Plant SR, Som S, Raine CS, Rowitch D, Franklin RJM, Stiles CD (2004), “The bHLH transcription factor Olig1 is required for repair of demyelinated lesions in the CNS” Science 306(5704):2111-2115

Fancy SP, Zhao C, Franklin RJ (2004), “Increased expression of Nkx2.2 and Olig2 identifies reactive oligodendrocyte progenitor cells responding to demyelination in the adult CNS” Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience 27(3):247-54 Details



Mei F, Fancy SP, Shen YA, Niu J, Zhao C, Presley B, Miao E, Lee S, Mayoral SR, Redmond SA, Etxeberria A, Xiao L, Franklin RJ, Green A, Hauser SL, Chan JR (2014), “Micropillar arrays as a high-throughput screening platform for therapeutics in multiple sclerosis.” Nat Med 20(8):954-60 Details

Stoffels JM, Hoekstra D, Franklin RJ, Baron W, Zhao C (2014), “The EIIIA domain from astrocyte-derived fibronectin mediates proliferation of oligodendrocyte progenitor cells following CNS demyelination.” Glia Details

Tyzack GE, Sitnikov S, Barson D, Adams-Carr KL, Lau NK, Kwok JC, Zhao C, Franklin RJ, Karadottir RT, Fawcett JW, Lakatos A (2014), “Astrocyte response to motor neuron injury promotes structural synaptic plasticity via STAT3-regulated TSP-1 expression.” Nat Commun 5:4294 Details


Coutts DJ, Humphries CE, Zhao C, Plant GW, Franklin RJ (2013), “Embryonic-derived olfactory ensheathing cells remyelinate focal areas of spinal cord demyelination more efficiently than neonatal or adult-derived cells.” Cell Transplant 22(7):1249-61 Details

Stoffels JM, de Jonge JC, Stancic M, Nomden A, van Strien ME, Ma D, Sisková Z, Maier O, Ffrench-Constant C, Franklin RJ, Hoekstra D, Zhao C, Baron W (2013), “Fibronectin aggregation in multiple sclerosis lesions impairs remyelination.” Brain 136(Pt 1):116-31 Details

Syed YA, Baer A, Hofer MP, González GA, Rundle J, Myrta S, Huang JK, Zhao C, Rossner MJ, Trotter MW, Lubec G, Franklin RJ, Kotter MR (2013), “Inhibition of phosphodiesterase-4 promotes oligodendrocyte precursor cell differentiation and enhances CNS remyelination.” EMBO Mol Med 5(12):1918-34 Details

Yuen TJ, Johnson KR, Miron VE, Zhao C, Quandt J, Harrisingh MC, Swire M, Williams A, McFarland HF, Franklin RJ, Ffrench-Constant C (2013), “Identification of endothelin 2 as an inflammatory factor that promotes central nervous system remyelination.” Brain 136(Pt 4):1035-47 Details


Chong SY, Rosenberg SS, Fancy SP, Zhao C, Shen YA, Hahn AT, McGee AW, Xu X, Zheng B, Zhang LI, Rowitch DH, Franklin RJ, Lu QR, Chan JR (2012), “Neurite outgrowth inhibitor Nogo-A establishes spatial segregation and extent of oligodendrocyte myelination.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 109(4):1299-304 Details

Hampton DW, Innes N, Merkler D, Zhao C, Franklin RJ, Chandran S (2012), “Focal immune-mediated white matter demyelination reveals an age-associated increase in axonal vulnerability and decreased remyelination efficiency.” Am J Pathol 180(5):1897-905 Details

Huang JK, Ferrari CC, Monteiro de Castro G, Lafont D, Zhao C, Zaratin P, Pouly S, Greco B, Franklin RJ (2012), “Accelerated axonal loss following acute CNS demyelination in mice lacking protein tyrosine phosphatase receptor type Z.” Am J Pathol 181(5):1518-23 Details


Fancy SP, Harrington EP, Yuen TJ, Silbereis JC, Zhao C, Baranzini SE, Bruce CC, Otero JJ, Huang EJ, Nusse R, Franklin RJ, Rowitch DH (2011), “Axin2 as regulatory and therapeutic target in newborn brain injury and remyelination.” Nat Neurosci Details

Huang JK, Fancy SP, Zhao C, Rowitch DH, Ffrench-Constant C, Franklin RJ (2011), “Myelin regeneration in multiple sclerosis: targeting endogenous stem cells.” Neurotherapeutics 8(4):650-8 Details

Huang JK, Jarjour AA, Nait Oumesmar B, Kerninon C, Williams A, Krezel W, Kagechika H, Bauer J, Zhao C, Evercooren AB, Chambon P, Ffrench-Constant C, Franklin RJ (2011), “Retinoid X receptor gamma signaling accelerates CNS remyelination.” Nat Neurosci 14(1):45-53 Details

Zambonin JL, Zhao C, Ohno N, Campbell GR, Engeham S, Ziabreva I, Schwarz N, Lee SE, Frischer JM, Turnbull DM, Trapp BD, Lassmann H, Franklin RJ, Mahad DJ (2011), “Increased mitochondrial content in remyelinated axons: implications for multiple sclerosis.” Brain 134(Pt 7):1901-13 Details


Barraud P, He X, Zhao C, Caldwell MA, Franklin RJ (2010), “FGF but not EGF induces phosphorylation of the cAMP response element binding protein in olfactory mucosa-derived cell cultures.” Exp Cell Res 316(9):1489-99 Details

Bruce CC, Zhao C, Franklin RJ (2010), “Remyelination - An effective means of neuroprotection.” Horm Behav 57(1):56-62 Details

Fancy SP, Kotter MR, Harrington EP, Huang JK, Zhao C, Rowitch DH, Franklin RJ (2010), “Overcoming remyelination failure in multiple sclerosis and other myelin disorders.” Exp Neurol Details

Harrington EP, Zhao C, Fancy SP, Kaing S, Franklin RJ, Rowitch DH (2010), “Oligodendrocyte PTEN is required for myelin and axonal integrity, not remyelination.” Ann Neurol 68(5):703-16 Details

Zawadzka M, Rivers LE, Fancy SP, Zhao C, Tripathi R, Jamen F, Young K, Goncharevich A, Pohl H, Rizzi M, Rowitch DH, Kessaris N, Suter U, Richardson WD, Franklin RJ (2010), “CNS-resident glial progenitor/stem cells produce Schwann cells as well as oligodendrocytes during repair of CNS demyelination.” Cell Stem Cell 6(6):578-90 Details


Chandran S, Hunt D, Joannides A, Zhao C, Compston A, Franklin RJ (2008), “Myelin repair: the role of stem and precursor cells in multiple sclerosis.” Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 363(1489):171-83 Details

Zhao C, Zawadzka M, Roulois AJ, Bruce CC, Franklin RJ (2008), “Promoting remyelination in multiple sclerosis by endogenous adult neural stem/precursor cells: defining cellular targets.” J Neurol Sci 265(1-2):12-6 Details


Barraud P, He X, Zhao C, Ibanez C, Raha-Chowdhury R, Caldwell MA, Franklin RJ (2007), “Contrasting effects of basic fibroblast growth factor and epidermal growth factor on mouse neonatal olfactory mucosa cells.” Eur J Neurosci 26(12):3345-57 Details

Roulois AJ, Zhao C, Zawadzka M, Bruce CC, Franklin RJ (2007), “[Promoting remyelination in multiple sclerosis by endogenous adult neural stem/precursor cells]” Rev Neurol (Paris) 163(6-7):667-71 Details


Chari DM, Zhao C, Kotter MR, Blakemore WF, Franklin RJ (2006), “Corticosteroids delay remyelination of experimental demyelination in the rodent central nervous system.” J Neurosci Res 83(4):594-605 Details

Kotter MR, Li WW, Zhao C, Franklin RJ (2006), “Myelin impairs CNS remyelination by inhibiting oligodendrocyte precursor cell differentiation.” J Neurosci 26(1):328-32 Details

Li WW, Penderis J, Zhao C, Schumacher M, Franklin RJ (2006), “Females remyelinate more efficiently than males following demyelination in the aged but not young adult CNS.” Exp Neurol 202(1):250-4 Details

Setzu A, Lathia JD, Zhao C, Wells K, Rao MS, Ffrench-Constant C, Franklin RJ (2006), “Inflammation stimulates myelination by transplanted oligodendrocyte precursor cells.” Glia 54(4):297-303 Details

Zhao C, Li WW, Franklin RJ (2006), “Differences in the early inflammatory responses to toxin-induced demyelination are associated with the age-related decline in CNS remyelination.” Neurobiol Aging 27(9):1298-307 Details


Kotter MR, Zhao C, van Rooijen N, Franklin RJ (2005), “Macrophage-depletion induced impairment of experimental CNS remyelination is associated with a reduced oligodendrocyte progenitor cell response and altered growth factor expression.” Neurobiol Dis 18(1):166-75 Details

Li WW, Setzu A, Zhao C, Franklin RJ (2005), “Minocycline-mediated inhibition of microglia activation impairs oligodendrocyte progenitor cell responses and remyelination in a non-immune model of demyelination.” J Neuroimmunol 158(1-2):58-66 Details

Zhao C, Fancy SP, Kotter MR, Li WW, Franklin RJ (2005), “Mechanisms of CNS remyelination--the key to therapeutic advances.” J Neurol Sci 233(1-2):87-91 Details

Zhao C, Fancy SP, Magy L, Urwin JE, Franklin RJ (2005), “Stem cells, progenitors and myelin repair.” J Anat 207(3):251-8 Details


Arnett HA, Fancy SP, Alberta JA, Zhao C, Plant SR, Kaing S, Raine CS, Rowitch DH, Franklin RJ, Stiles CD (2004), “bHLH transcription factor Olig1 is required to repair demyelinated lesions in the CNS.” Science 306(5704):2111-5 Details


Zhao C, Strappe PM, Lever AM, Franklin RJ (2003), “Lentiviral vectors for gene delivery to normal and demyelinated white matter.” Glia 42(1):59-67 Details


Franklin RJ, Zhao C, Sim FJ (2002), “Ageing and CNS remyelination.” Neuroreport 13(7):923-8 Details

Sim FJ, Zhao C, Li WW, Lakatos A, Franklin RJ (2002), “Expression of the POU-domain transcription factors SCIP/Oct-6 and Brn-2 is associated with Schwann cell but not oligodendrocyte remyelination of the CNS.” Mol Cell Neurosci 20(4):669-82 Details

Sim FJ, Zhao C, Penderis J, Franklin RJ (2002), “The age-related decrease in CNS remyelination efficiency is attributable to an impairment of both oligodendrocyte progenitor recruitment and differentiation.” J Neurosci 22(7):2451-9 Details