USC University of Southern California

Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC

The Cell Whisperer

Photo by John Skalicky

Jiang “John” Zhong MS ’02, PhD ’03


If ever there comes a time when scientists “grow” transplant organs using a patient’s own stem cells, it could be a result of some of the research currently being conducted by Jiang “John” Zhong.

The assistant professor who joined Ostrow in 2014 is determined to better understand the way genes regulate each other to create specific proteins — knowledge that could ultimately give scientists the ability to manipulate stem cells into developing into specific types of cells. 

While most researchers up to this point have studied cells by the millions, Zhong is doing it one cell at a time, giving him a much clearer view of the ways genes communicate with each other. 

Not only would Zhong’s research change the ways organs are transplanted — decreasing the likelihood of immune rejection — it could also impact cancer treatment.

Instead of using traditional chemical and radiation treatments that often kill both cancer and healthy cells indiscriminately, health care practitioners could opt for methods that slow or stop cancer growth on the cellular level. Such a discovery would improve patients’ quality of life and mean fewer nasty side effects associated with traditional cancer treatments. 

“I really hope to encourage my students to explore the unknowns and apply new knowledge to address biomedical challenges in their daily lives,” says Zhong, who leads DDS students in problem-based learning sessions and mentors Ostrow post-docs in their own research projects.

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This story originally appeared in the TroDent, the official publication for the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC. Read more stories like this in our Spring 2018 issue.



Posted May 2018