The Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation recognizes Zhiyong Cheng, an assistant professor in the department of human nutrition, foods, and exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, for his work to identify molecular targets that can be used to prevent and combat metabolic disorders such as obesity, diabetes, and cancer.
Recently Cheng was a lead member of a team that identified a biomarker in people at risk for diabetes that could help prevent them from developing Type II diabetes. The researchers discovered that people who were considered to be insulin resistant — unable to respond to the hormone insulin effectively — also had altered mitochondrial DNA.
The epidemic of metabolic diseases is growing rapidly, and along with the associated cancer risk, has led to significantly increased health care costs, according to Cheng. As the primary metabolic platform, mitochondria show various defects in individuals with diabetes, obesity and cancer. Cheng’s studies are dedicated to a better understanding of mitochondrial defects, and to developing mechanism-driven therapeutic rationales for these diseases.
“We seek to understand the molecular mechanism of mitochondrial alterations and metabolic disorders, with the goal to develop mechanism-based therapeutic and preventive rationales for human metabolic diseases,” said Cheng. “Our top priority is set to scholarship and professional development in the lab, where people can enjoy not only science and discovery but also scholarship and stewardship.”
Cheng is affiliated with the Fralin Life Science Institute on campus, as well as the Fralin Translational Obesity Research Center. He has served as author or co-author on more than 20 publications.
Before coming to Virginia Tech, he was a postdoctoral associate at Harvard University Medical School and the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. He received his Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from Peking University.