Photo of Dr. Xinli Zhang

Xinli  Zhang M.D., Ph.D.

Adjunct Professor
  • (310) 794-5479
2641 MRL / 30-121 CHS

UCLA School of Dentistry
10833 Le Conte Ave.
Box 951668
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1668

  • Full-Time Faculty
Academic Sections
  • Orthodontics

Dr. Zhang was originally trained in China as a medical doctor with specialty in pathology. He then earned his Ph.D. degree in Molecular Biology and Pathology studying the molecular mechanisms of liver carcinogenesis. Before joining UCLA School of Dentistry in 1997, Dr. Zhang was the vice-chair of Department of Pathology with extensive administrative experience and a physician scientist with several research grants awarded by the provincial and national science foundations in China.

At UCLA, Dr. Zhang has been an active leading investigator on multiple basic and translational projects with a great deal of firsthand experience and hands-on experimental expertise in areas of molecular bone biology, adult stem cells, genetically-modified mouse models as well as preclinical large animal models for various bone and cartilage conditions including craniofacial anomalies. The impact of his over two-decades’ research on a novel osteogenic molecule Nell-1 is illustrated through over 100 peer-reviewed publications in several prestigious journals including Journal of Clinical Investigation, Nature Communication, Stem Cells, etc. In addition to conducting scientific research at the forefront, Dr. Zhang has also been a passionate mentor and educator to students at various levels both in the lab and classroom. Particularly, he has been the main force in training next generation orthodontists with scientific mindset and critical thinking capability here at UCLA. He takes great pride in seeing his mentees being recognized as First Place Winner of Hatton Award by AADR/IADR and the Young Investigator Award by ASBMR multiple times.

Additional Information

Courses Taught

  • DS300.03a, OB226 (2008-2012), Craniofacial growth and development (Course co-chair)

  • DS308.09a (2006~present), Introduction to Research (Course Chair)

  • GDA103 (2016~present), Growth, Development, and Aging 103 (Guest lecturer)

  • OB275 (2018~), Molecular and Cellular Biology (Guest lecturer)

Educational & Professional Background
  • M.D., Third Military Medical University (TMMU), China, 1985

  • M.S., Tumor Pathology, TMMU, China, 1991

  • Ph.D., Molecular Pathology, TMMU, China, 1996

Research & Interests

Dr. Xinli Zhang’s research has been primarily focused on identifying functionalities, delineating the underlying molecular mechanisms, and exploring the translational potentials of a novel osteogenic factor Nell-1. Particularly, using FDA-approved BMP2 as the benchmark bone growth factor, Nell-1’s potentials as a novel therapeutic have been extensively explored and evaluated for various bone and cartilage conditions in animal models from rodent to non-human primate for more than a decade with millions of dollars’ research funding support from NIH and other funding agents, which helped generate an impressive portfolio of Nell-1 patents for licensing. Tissue engineering, human adipose tissue-derived stem cells, recombinant human Nell-1 protein production, modification and delivery as well as the functional and mechanistic comparative study of Nell-1 vs BMP2 are all the interests and major parts of Nell-1’s translational research. With the identification of Nell-1’s specific cell surface receptor Cntnap4 and the successful generation of Nell-1 and Cntnap4 conditional knockout mouse lines, the continuous exploration and research on Nell-1 at both basic and translational fronts would be expected for more fruitful outcomes in the future. Dr. Zhang’s other research areas and interests include craniofacial anomalies, tumors and comparative pathology in general.

Professional Memberships
  • American and International Association for Dental Research (AADR/IADR)
  • American Society of Bone and Mineralization Research (ASBMR)
  • United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology (USCAP)
  • American Society of Investigative Pathology (ASIP)