School of Pharmacy Welcomes New Neurology Researcher

For Xiangming Zha, more labs are better than one
pharmacy researcher stands in laboratory

For Associate Professor Xiangming Zha, expanding his network for collaboration is a critical consideration for his moving to UMKC. “It’s hard for one lab to get everything done,” said Zha. “When you build up that network, your research gains more opportunities.”

That network has included a decade-long collaboration with Dr. Xiangping Chu at the UMKC School of Medicine. Now he is expanding his network to include the UMKC School of Pharmacy, where he’s joined the faculty, continuing his research focused on brain function with a general interest in neuroscience. The crux of his research centers around the study of pH – a scale used to specify acidity – in the brain that contributes to neuron function and ischemic brain injury. More recently, he has started to look at the role of pH in cerebral vascular function.

In 2004, while in his post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Iowa, he saw an opportunity in this area-of-study because of field is less explored. Prior to UMKC, he was at the University of South Alabama (USA) School of Medicine. “At USA, I was fortunate to work with a group of excellent collaborators,” said Zha. “The good thing about moving from medicine to pharmacy is that I still maintain all the previous connections. At the same time, it allows me to build new connections and thus explore new directions of research.”

That’s what has him excited about his move to UMKC School of Pharmacy. The move has additional benefits as he can lean on the school’s pharmacology and pharmaceutical researchers. He has been studying the acid-sensing ion channels and acid-sensitive GPCRs. According to Zha, there are few viable pharmaceutical options to activate or inhibit these acid receptors in the brain.

“There are a couple of pharmaceutical compounds available but none are ideal and that’s the challenging part,” said Zha. “If we have a more specific compound which can turn on and off the receptors, we may be able to better understand these acids.”

Unlocking that aspect of the research could help understand the duality of the acidity levels in the brain. Too much acid is rarely a good thing but there is recent research data that shows there may be some protective effect. To target the benefits of the acid, Zha needs to know more about the receptor and signaling involved, which aren’t well-defined yet.

These challenges have kept his research interest for the entirety of his career. Zha admits that research lives on grant funding and previous research is a key to successful funding.

“One important part for that to happen, is having good people,”said Zha.

Students and fellows interested in participating in his research efforts are encouraged to contact him.

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Published: Oct 19, 2021

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