Wei Zheng, Ph.D.

Research Interests/ Training Areas

  • To explore mechanisms by which lead (Pb) exposure alters beta-amyloid transport by brain barrier systems and affects the homeostasis of beta-amyloid in the central milieu, leading to cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA) in Alzheimer’s disease.

  •  To explore mechanisms, biomarkers and chelation therapy of manganese (Mn)-induced Parkinsonian disorder, by using laboratory animal models, human cohorts and noninvasive technical assessment of cumulative Mn in human bones.

  • To explore the role of copper (Cu) in adult neurogenesis in subventricular zone (SVZ) and to understand how the interaction between toxic metals and Cu may adversely affect the processes, contributing to metal-induced neurodegenerative diseases.

  • Transport of substances (metals, polypeptides, and drug molecules) by the blood-brain barrier and blood-CSF barrier.


Dr. Wei Zheng received his B.S. in Pharmacy and M.S. in Pharmacology from Zhejiang University and his Ph.D. in Toxicology from University of Arizona.  He was an Assistant Professor (1993-2000) and later Associate Professor (2000-2003) in School of Public Health and College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in New York City. He joined Purdue University in 2003 and became a Full Professor in 2006. Having served a decade as the Head of the School of Health Sciences (2008-2017), Dr. Zheng returned to his research on metal-induced neurodegenerative diseases and his passion to train students for their successes.

Dr. Zheng's research team has been conducting pioneer investigations exploring contributions of the brain barrier system, especially the blood-CSF barrier in the choroid plexus, in metal-induced neurodegenerative disorders. His major contributions to toxicological sciences include: (1) his original discovery that lead (Pb) accumulation in brain choroid plexus reduces the production of transthyretin, a protein transporting thyroid hormones and beta-amyloids in brain. This discovery and subsequent research have facilitated the establishment of new research field widely recognized as “Toxicology of Brain Barrier Systems” (Ref#1,2); (2) his original discovery on Mn-Fe interaction in Mn-induced Parkinsonism, which led to his translational research from the lab to cohorts of smelters, welders and battery workers for biomarker discovery and manganism therapy (Ref#3,4); (3) his original discovery on the molecular mechanism by which Fe and Cu are transported by brain barrier systems (summarized in Ref#5); (4) his original discovery of a distinct function of Pb in the formation of amyloid plaques and the importance of brain barrier’s integrity in the pathoetiology of Alzheimer’s disease (Ref#6,7); and (5) his leadership role in fostering collaborations among metal toxicologists, medical device engineers, physicists, epidemiologists, and health field workers for large-scale human studies of metal-induced disorders (Ref#8,9). More recently, his group is working on a new concept of copper (Cu) in adult neurogenesis in brain subventricular zone adjacent to the choroid plexus (Ref#10).

Dr. Zheng's research has been supported by continuous NIH R01 grants (since 1994), U.S. Department of Defense contracts, and other awards from pharmaceutical companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Eli Lilly.

Recent and Representative Publications 

Link to Google Scholar for a complete list of publications: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=OK6RNdcAAAAJ&hl=en

1. Zheng W*, Aschner M, and Ghersi-Egea JF (2003). Brain barrier systems: a new frontier in metal neuro-toxicological research. Toxicology and applied pharmacology 192(1):1-11. PMCID: PMC3982148.

2. Zheng W* and Ghersi-Egea JF (2020). Brain barrier systems play no small roles in toxicant-induced brain diseases and disorders. Toxicological Sciences 175(2):147-148. PMCID: PMC7253204. 

3. Crossgrove J and Zheng W*(2004). Manganese toxicity upon overexposure. NMR in Biomedicine 17(8):544-553. PMCID: PMC3980863. 

4. O’Neal SL and Zheng W* (2015). Manganese toxicity upon overexposure: a decade in review. Current environmental health reports 2(3):315-328. PMCID: PMC4545267. 

5. Zheng W* and Monnot AD (2012). Regulation of brain iron and copper homeostasis by brain barrier systems: implication in neurodegenerative diseases. Pharmacology & therapeutics 133(2):177-188. PMCID: PMC3268876. 

6. Gu H, Robison G, Hong L, Barrea R, Wei X, Farlow MR, Pushkar YN, Du Y and Zheng W* (2012). Increased b-amyloid deposition in Tg-SWDI transgenic mouse brain following in vivo lead exposure. Toxicology letters 213(2): 211-219. PMCID: PMC3461595. 

7. Shen XL, Xia L, Liu L, Jiang W, Shannahan J, Du Y, and Zheng W* (2020). Altered clearance of beta-amyloid from the cerebrospinal fluid following subchronic lead exposure in rats: Roles of RAGE and LRP1 in the choroid plexus. J Trace Elem Med Biol 61:126520. PMCID: PMC7541561.

8. Wells EM, Liu YZ, Rolle-McFarland D, Mostafaei F, Zheng W and Nie LH (2018). In vivo measurement of bone manganese and association with manual dexterity: a pilot study. Environmental Research 160:35-38. PMCID: PMC5962822. 

9. Dydak U, Jiang YM, Long LL, Zhu H, Chen J, Li WM, Edden RAE, Hu SG, Fu X, Long ZY, Mo XA, Meier D, Harezlak J, Aschner M, Murdoch J, and Zheng W (2011). In vivo measurement of brain GABA concentrations by magnetic resonance spectroscopy in smelters occupationally exposed to manganese. Environmental Health Perspectives 119:219-224. PMCID: PMC3040609.

10. Fu S, Jiang W, Gao X, Zeng A, Cholger D, Cannon J, Chen JH and Zheng W* (2016). Aberrant adult neurogenesis in the subventricular zone-rostral migratory stream-olfactory bulb system following subchronic manganese exposure. Toxicological Sciences 150(2):347-368. PMCID:PMC5009483. 

Click here for a full CV in PDF for Wei Zheng



Professor of Health Sciences & Toxicology

Faculty Associate, Center on Aging and Life Course

Phone: 765-496-6447
Fax: 765-496-1377
E-mail: wzheng@purdue.edu
Lab Website

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