Dr. Liu’s research interest focuses on the molecular mechanisms underlying neuronal cell injury after stroke and brain trauma and potential novel therapeutic approaches. Specifically, Dr. Liu and his colleagues, supervised by Dr. Steven H. Graham, are studying the role of cyclopentenone prostaglandins (CyPGs) and some important enzymatic proteins in post-ischemic and post-traumatic neuronal injury. Their work has shown that the generation of CyPGs is highly increased after stroke and trauma. This excessive CyPG production induces neuronal cell death by adducting and unfolding many essential proteins. One of the CyPGs’ targets is UCH-L1, which is an abundant protein expressed strictly within the neuronal system and its mutation and modifications have been linked to many neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.
Dr. Liu’s other ongoing projects address the role of UCH-L1 in neuronal cell survival and axonal repair under a variety of pathological conditions, including hypoxia and trauma. To facilitate their research, two knock-in transgenic mice lines carrying mutations in UCH-L1 gene have been made. A TAT-fusion protein has been generated to delivery UCH-L1 into the brain. Their research has demonstrated that a specific point mutation in UCH-L1 can significantly attenuate stroke- or trauma-induced brain damage. In addition, in vivo delivery of TAT-UCH-L1 protein is protective against stroke- and trauma-induced neuronal injury.
Dr. Liu is a member of Society for Neurosciences (SFN) and International Society for Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism (ISCBFM), and he is an ad-hoc reviewer for some journals including APMIS, Cellular Physiology and Biochemistry, Molecular Medicine Reports, and he also served as a reviewer for the international academic conference: Brain & BrainPET.