Zhichao Zhou

Zhichao Zhou

Principal researcher

About me

I am currently Assistant Professor and PI at Division of Cardiology in the Department of Medicine Solna and coordinator of KIRCNET, Karolinska Institutet. I graduated from a Medical school in China in 2007 and obtained my Ph.D. degree from the Department of Cardiology, Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam in the Netherlands in 2013. I had my postdoc trainings at West Virginia University and Karolinska Institutet, respectively. My research focus is on the elucidation of novel disease mechanisms underlying cardiovascular complications and identification of effective therapeutic strategies for patients with cardiometabolic disease suffering from cardiovascular complications.

Research description

Cardiovascular complications are major clinical problems in various cardiometabolic diseases (e.g. diabetes and obesity) that leads to high morbidity and mortality worldwide. The underlying mechanisms are poorly understood, and specific therapy targeting cardiovascular injury is lacking. In recent years, we have identified that red blood cells (RBCs) undergo dysfunction which acts as disease mediator of development of vascular dysfunction in diabetes and COVID-19, and targeting dysfunctional RBCs could serve as a potential strategy for the treatment of vascular injury.

RBCs contain abundant and diverse non-coding (nc) RNAs. Using high throughput profiling followed by functional validations in samples from well-characterized clinical cohorts of patients and genetically modified and disease animal models, my study explores the expression and function of ncRNAs in RBCs and the implications of alteration of RBC-derived ncRNAs for the development of cardiovascular complications. In addition, RBCs serve as ATP pool and release of ATP from RBCs is impaired in several disease conditions. Another research interest of mine is to investigate the functional interaction between the RBC and cardiovascular wall through activation of ATP-mediated purinergic signaling in cardiometabolic disease. The ultimate research goal is to elucidate altered RBC-derived factors as novel disease mechanisms of cardiovascular complications and identify key RBC-derived factors as potential diagnostic markers and therapeutic targets. 



  • 2018 to present: Assistant Professor at the Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine Solna, Karolinska Institute, Sweden
  • 2015 to 2018: Postdoc Researcher at the Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine Solna, Karolinska Institute, Sweden
  • 2014 to 2015: Postdoc Researcher at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, West Virginia University, WV, USA
  • 2013: PhD in Cardiovascular Physiology, Experimental Cardiology, Department of Cardiology, Erasmus University Medical Center, The Netherlands

Academic honours, awards and prizes

Research grants:

  • EFSD/Novo Nordisk Foundation Future Leaders Award 2022 (NNF22SA0081227)
  • Karolinska Institutet KID Funding (202100275)
  • Eva and Oscar Ahréns Foundation (2021-1233)
  • Swedish Heart and Lung Foundation (20190341, 20200326 and 20220264)
  • Loo and Hans Ostermans Foundation (2018-01213 and 2020-01209)
  • Lars Hiertas Minne Foundation (FO2018-0156)
  • Karolinska Institutet Grant (2018-018372018, 2020-01473, 2020-02285 and 2022-01767)
  • Sigurt and Elsa Goljes Memorial Foundation (LA2017-0131)
  • Olaussons Fund 2016

Commission of trust:

  • Editorial board: Front Cardiovasc Med; Front Pharmacol; Purinergic Signal  
  • Committee member: KiiM
  • Guest editor: Front Cardiovasc Med 2022; Int J Hypertens 2019
  • Grant evaluation task for: UK Medical Research Council (MRC); Polish National Science Center
  • Journal reviewer for: J Am Coll Cardiol; Eur Heart J; Circ Res; Cardiovasc Res; Hypertension; Atherosclerosis; Br J Pharmacol; J Appl Physiol; Am J Hypertens; JACC Asia; Mol Cell Life Sci; J Diabetes; J Diabetes Res; Front Cardiovasc Med; Front Pharmacol; Purinergic Signal etc.

Selected publications:

  1. Jiao T, Collado A, Mahdi A, Jurga J, Tengbom J, Saleh N, Verouhis D, Böhm F, Zhou Z, Yang J, Pernow J. Erythrocytes from patients with ST-elevation myocardial infarction induce cardioprotection through the purinergic P2Y13 receptor and nitric oxide signalling. Basic Res Cardiol 2022 Sep 16;117(1):46.

  2. Mahdi A, Collado A, Tengbom J, Jiao T, Wodaje T, Johansson N, Farnebo F, Färnert A, Yang J, Lundberg JO, Zhou Z, Pernow J. Erythrocytes induce vascular dysfunction in COVID-19. JACC Basic Transl Sci. 2022 Feb 16. doi: 10.1016/j.jacbts.2021.12.003. Online ahead of print.

  3. Zhou Z (Corresponding author), Collado A, Sun C, Tratsiakovich Y, Mahdi A, Winter H, Chernogubova E, Seime T, Narayanan S, Jiao T, Jin H, Alvarsson M, Zheng X, Yang J, Hedin U, Catrina SB, Maegdefessel L, Pernow J. Downregulation of erythrocyte miR-210 induces endothelial dysfunction in type 2 diabetes. Diabetes. 2022 Feb 1;71(2):285-297.
  4. Mahdi A, Jiao T, Tratsiakovich Y, Yang J, Östenson CG, Danser AH, Pernow J, Zhou Z (Corresponding and senior author). Therapeutic potential of sunitinib in ameliorating endothelial dysfunction in type 2 diabetic rats. Pharmacology. 2022;107(3-4):160-166.
  5. Collado A, Jin H, Pernow J, Zhou Z (Corresponding and senior author). microRNA: a mediator of diet-induced cardiovascular protection. Curr Opin Pharmacol. 2021 Oct;60:183-192.
  6. Zhou Z (Corresponding author). Purinergic interplay between erythrocytes and platelets in diabetes-associated vascular dysfunction. Purinergic Signal. 2021 Dec;17(4):705-712.
  7. Zhang Y, Wernly B, Cao X, Mustafa SJ, Tang Y, Zhou Z (Corresponding and senior author). Adenosine and adenosine receptor-mediated action in coronary microcirculation. Basic Res Cardiol. 2021 Mar 23;116(1):22
  8. Wernly B, Erlinge D, Pernow J, Zhou (Corresponding and senior author). Ticagrelor: a cardiometabolic drug targeting erythrocyte-mediated purinergic signaling? Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2021 Jan 1;320 (1): H90-H94 doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.00570.
  9. Mahdi A, Tratsiakovich Y, Tengbom J, Jiao T, Garib L, Alvarsson M, Yang J, Pernow J, Zhou Z (Corresponding and senior author). Erythrocytes induce endothelial injury in type 2 diabetes through alteration of vascular purinergic signaling. Front. Pharmacol. 2020 Nov. 30;11:603226 doi: 10.3389/fphar.2020.603226
  10. Cai Z, Tu L, Guignabert C, Merkus D, Zhou Z (Corresponding and senior author). Purinergic dysfunction in pulmonary arterial hypertension. J Am Heart Assoc. 2020 Sep. 15;9(18):e017404.
  11. Mahdi A, Tengbom J, Alvarsson M, Wernly B, Zhou Z (Co-corresponding and senior author), Pernow J. Red blood cell peroxynitrite causes endothelial dysfunction in type 2 diabetes mellitus via arginase. Cells. 2020 Jul 16;9(7):1712. doi: 10.3390/cells9071712
  12. Zhou R, Dang X, Sprague RS, Mustafa SJ, Zhou Z (Corresponding and senior author). Alteration of purinergic signaling in diabetes: Focus on vascular function. J Mol Cell Cardiol, 2020 Feb; 11;140:1-9
  13. Pernow J, Mahdi A, Yang J, Zhou Z. Red blood cell dysfunction: a new player in cardiovascular disease. Cardiovasc Res. 2019 Sep 1;115(11):1596-1605. doi: 10.1093/cvr/cvz156
  14. Mahdi A, Jiao T, Tratsiakovich Y, Yang J, Östenson CG, Pernow J, Zhou Z (Corresponding and senior author). Altered purinergic receptor sensitivity in type 2 diabetes-associated endothelial dysfunction and Up₄A-mediated vascular contraction. Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Dec 7;19(12). pii: E3942. doi: 10.3390/ijms19123942.
  15. Zhou Z (Corresponding author), Mahdi A, Trtsiakovich Y, Zahoran S, Kövamees O, Nordin F, Uribe Gonzalez AE, Alvarsson M, Östenson CG, Andersson DC, Hedin U, Hermesz E, Lundberg JO, Yang J, Pernow J. Erythrocytes from patients with type 2 diabetes induce endothelial dysfunction via arginase I. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2018 Aug 14;72(7):769-780. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2018.05.052.