Zixuan Zhang

Zixuan Zhang


I am optimistic and easy to get along with. I am a third year PhD student currently researching on “The role of vitamin D in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: microRNA mediated interactions in hepatic stellate cells”. Although my BSc was in Food Science and Engineering, MSc in Food Science, this PhD has taken me to use knowledge from a more nutrition and biomolecule area, which I had never done before, like cell culture experiments, proteomic and genomic based approaches. I am excited to meet challenges and overcome difficulties in my project. After 2 years study, I feel more confident in my research area. I love cooking, doing exercises, singing, dancing, and listening to the music, especially KPOP.


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Research interests

My PhD project will mainly focus on the mechanisms behind the role of vitamin D in NAFLD pathogenesis. The overall aim is to test the hypotheses that vitamin D and its regulated microRNAs (miRNAs) contribute to NAFLD disease progression. In the first stage, the immortalised hepatic stellate cell (HSC) line will be cultured with vitamin D and/or fatty acids. Effects on vitamin D target miRNAs and the cellular proteome as well as metabolic status will be assessed. These results will be confirmed and expanded in the primary HSCs, where we will screen for novel D3 target miRNAs, isolated and expanded from liver resections obtained in collaboration with Professor TooGood. Lastly, in addition to in vitro experiments, we will use the UK biobank to assess diet/lifestyle, vitamin D status and SNP variants in vitamin D metabolism in the UK population in relation to liver disease. The results of this work will yield significant understanding of the molecular and regulatory mechanisms of vitamin D metabolism in both healthy and fatty livers.


  • BSc Food Science and Engineering, Qilu University of Technology
  • MSc Food Science, University of Leeds