Laboratory of Qilin Cao, Ph.D.


Cao Laboratory focuses on the development of stem and progenitor cell transplantation strategies for promoting functional recovery after spinal cord injury, stroke and other neurological diseases. We are studying the molecular mechanisms regulating the proliferation and differentiation of neural stem cells and are developing approaches to generate safe and clinic-suitable neural stem and progenitor cells from patients’ somatic cells. We are investigating the therapeutic potentials of neural stem and progenitor cells and their mechanisms for functional recovery after spinal cord injury and other neurological diseases. Our long-term goal is to develop safe and effective stem cell therapies which can be translated to the clinic benefiting patients with neurological diseases.

Dr. Qilin Cao is an Associate Professor in the Vivian L. Smith Department of Neurosurgery and Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Dr. Cao earned his MSc in neurobiology and his MD in clinical medicine from Hunan Medical University. Following his postdoctoral training in University of Freiburg, Germany and University of Louisville, he started as an assistant professor in the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center at University of Louisville in 2004, where his focus was stem cells and spinal cord injury. He joined the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston in 2008. His research has been consecutively supported by NIH, NSF, TIRR foundation, Memorial Hermann Foundation-Staman Olgivie Fund, Bentsen Stroke Foundation. He has presented invited talks and lectures at international conferences and many academic institutions. Dr. Cao has developed a patent, contributed to a few books, and co-authored many articles that have appeared in Stem cells, the Journal of Neuroscience, Plos Genetics, Plos One, Glia, and Experimental Neurology, among others. He has been serving as a grant reviewer for NIH, DoD, VA and many other agencies and as a manuscript-reviewer for many international journals.


1) Transplantation of human neural progenitor cells to promote functional recovery after spinal cord injury and ischemia stroke.
2) Combinatorial strategies to promote functional remyelination after spinal cord injury.
3) Roles of gliosis in functional recovery after spinal cord injury and ischemia stroke.
4) In vivo reprogramming of reactive astrocytes to attenuate neuropathic pain after spinal cord injury.
5) Combination of chemogenetic approach and in vivo reprogramming of reactive astrocyte to promote axonal regeneration and functional recovery after cervical spinal cord injury.


Qilin Cao, MD Associate Professor
Yiyan Zheng, MD, postdoctoral research associate
Jun Li, MD, Senior Research Associate
Haipeng Xue, Research Associate
Xiaoxin Cheng, MD, PhD, Visiting Scholar
Chrystine Gallegos, Undergraduate Student


Office Phone: 713.500.3445


  1. Chang Dong XM, Chen KN, Sloan S, Zhang Y, Cao QL, Barres B and Wu JQ (2015). Comprehensive Identification of Long Non-coding RNAs in Purified Cell Types from the Brain Reveals Functional LncRNA in OPC Fate Determination. PLoS Genet. 11(12):e1005669.
  2. Fan CL, Wang H, Chen D, Cheng XX, Xiong K, Luo XG and Cao QL (2014). Effect of type-2 astrocytes on the viability of dorsal root ganglion neurons and length of neuronal processes. Neural Regen. Res. 9: 119-128.
  3. Chen KN, Deng SY, Lu HZ, Zheng YY, Yang GD, Kim DH, Cao QL* and Wu JQ* (2013). RNA-Seq characterization of spinal cord injury transcriptome in acute/subacute phases: a resource for understanding the pathology at the systems level. Plus One 8(8):e72567* co-corresponding authors.
  4. Fan CL, Zheng YY, Cheng XX, Qi XB, Bu P, Luo XG, Kim DH and Cao QL (2013). Transplantation of D15A-expressing glial-restricted-precursor-derived astrocytes improves anatomical and locomotor recovery after spinal cord injury. Int J Biol Sci. 2013;9(1):78-93.
  5. Cao QL and Whittrmore SR (2012). Cell transplantation: stem cells and precursor cells. Handb Clin Neurol. 109: 551-61.
  6. Wang YP, Cheng XX, He Q, Kim DH, Whittemore SR and Cao QL (2011). Astrocytes from the contused spinal cord inhibit oligodendrocyte differentiation of adult OPCs by increasing the expression of bone morphogenetic proteins. J Neurosci 31(16):6053– 6058.
  7. Cao QL, He Q, Wang YP, Cheng XX, Howard RM, Zhang YP, DeVries WH, Shields CB, Magnuson DSK, Xu XM, Kim DH and Whittemore SR (2010). Transplantation of CNTF-expressing adult oligodendrocyte precursor cells promotes remyelination and functional recovery after spinal cord injury. J Neurosci 30: 2989-3001.
  8. Zhu Y, Park J, Hu XM, Li H, Cao QL, Feng GS and Qiu MS (2010). Control of oligodendrocyte generation and proliferation by Shp2 protein tyrosine phosphatase. Glia 58: 1407-1414.
  9. Cai J, Zhu Q, Zheng K, Li H, Qi Y, Cao QL, Qiu MS (2010). Co-localization of Nkx6.2 and Nkx2.2 homeodomain proteins in differentiated myelinating oligodendrocytes. Glia 58: 458-468.
  10. Titsworth WL, Cheng XX, Ke Y, Deng LX, Burckardt KA, Pendleton C, Liu NK, Shao H, Cao QL, and Xu XM (2009). Differential expression of sPLA2 following spinal cord injury and a functional role for sPLA2-IIA in mediating oligodendrocyte death. Glia 57(14):1521-37.