Dr. Yi Yang is a Research Professor in the Department of Neurology. She holds an MD and a PhD in medicine and neuroscience from the Chongqing Medical University in China. Dr. Yang received her first post-doctoral training at Bejing Institute of Basic Medical Sciences and the University of Hong Kong Faculty of Medicine. In 2021, she moved to US and worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Department of Neuroscience, University of New Mexico School of Medicine.

Dr. Yang joined the Department of Neurology in 2004 as a member of basic science faculty. Her research is focused on the understanding and translational potential of the cellular and molecular mechanisms of brain injury and the neurovascular remodeling associated with ischemic cerebral stroke and vascular cognitive impairment and dementia (VCID). The long-term goal is to facilitate the development of more precisely targeted therapeutic approaches to reduce the pathological cascade of brain injury and to improve recovery following neurological disorders. As PI, Dr. Yang has been successful in directing and administering independent extramural grants from AHA and NIH including a current NIH NINDS R01 grant funding. She has led a research team in opening novel areas of research in neurological disorders. Her publications have been attracting a great attention in the neuroscience research field with a growing number of citations.

View Dr. Yang's Research Citations Here

Dr. Yang’s earlier work has been seminal in defining the role of the matrix metalloproteinase (MMPs) in the disruption of the tight junction proteins (TJPs) in blood-brain barrier (BBB) after stroke. Her studies on alternate roles of MMPs in the cell nucleus on DNA repair and neuronal apoptotic death has been pioneering in the field. Previous findings also indicated the critical role of MMPs in stroke-induced angiogenesis during brain repair.

Dr. Yang has demonstrated that spontaneous angiogenic vessels have high BBB permeability due to the lack of endothelial TJPs. These findings emphasize the current challenges to promote angiogenesis in ischemic brain as a therapeutic strategy: facilitation of functional BBB restoration and determination of appropriate points of intervention for functional vascular remodeling. Further studies have demonstrated that crosstalk between components of the neurovascular unit, including pericytes, astrocytes, and microglia, play a critical role in BBB restoration in newly formed vessels during stroke recovery.

The primary focus of Dr. Yang’s NIH- and AHA-funded projects is to characterize the cellular and molecular mechanisms through which functional BBB is formed during vascular remodeling in stroke brain, as well as to monitor dynamics of functional neurovascular remodeling during recovery from stroke utilizing interdisciplinary methods. Studies in her laboratory are also focused on delineating the vascular mechanisms that trigger the VCID pathological cascades and the molecular and cellular targets that can support the BBB functions to ameliorate the progressive cerebral lesions in VCID. Additional interests are to elucidate the role of pericyte in regulating TJP formation of BBB during vascular remodeling. Some of the experimental approaches routinely use in the laboratory include rodent models of cerebral ischemia, VCID, and intracerebral hemorrhage, neuronal and 3D BBB cultures, mouse genetic models, MRI, specific antibody-conjugated nanoparticles, non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation, biochemical, molecular, histological, and behavioral evaluations.