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Gehua Zhen, M.D.

Gehua Zhen, M.D.

Headshot of Gehua Zhen
  • Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery

Research Interests

The role of TGF-beta signaling in skeletal diseases; Osteoarthritis; Cartilage biology and engineering; Mesenchymal stem cells more


Dr. Gehua Zhen is an instructor of orthopaedic surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Her research focuses on the signaling mechanisms that underlie osteoarthritis development and progression. The long-term goal of her research is to translate the research findings from bench side to bedside to improve therapeutic strategies for joint degenerative diseases.

Dr. Zhen eared her M.D. from Shanghai Medical University (now Fudan University School of Medicine). She completed postgraduate training at Johns Hopkins University. 

She is a member of the American Society for Bone & Mineral Research and International Chinese Musculoskeletal Research Society. more


  • Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery

Departments / Divisions



  • M.D.; Shanghai Medical University (China) (1997)

Research & Publications

Research Summary

Dr. Zhen’s study focuses on revealing the mechanism that underlies subchondral bone pathology during osteoarthritis initiation and progression.

She found that TGFβ activity is aberrantly elevated in the subchondral bone in response to the altered mechanical loading in OA animal model and human subjects. High levels of TGF-beta induced formation of nestin+ mesenchymal stem cell (MSCs) clusters leading to abnormal bone formation accompanied by increased angiogenesis.

Suppressed TGFβ signaling in subchondral bone MSC lineage cells attenuated osteoarthritis progression. Considering osteoarthritis as a disease of the whole joint, Dr. Zhen also studies the biomechanical interplay between subchondral bone and articular cartilage and its role in the development of osteoarthritis.

Selected Publications

Zhen G, Wen C, Jia X, Li Y, Crane J, Mears S, Askin F, Frassica F, Chang W, Yao J, Artemov D, Chen Q, Zhao Z, Zhou X, Cosgarea A, Carrino J, Riley L, Sponseller Paul, Wan M, Lu W, Cao X. Inhibition of TGFβ signaling in subchondral bone mesenchymal stem cells prevents onset of osteoarthritis. Nature Medicine. 2013; 19 (6):704-712. PMID: 23685840

Cui Z, Crane J, Xie H, Jin X, Zhen G, Li C, Xie L, Wang L, Bian Q, Qiu T, Wan M, Xie M, Ding S, Yu B, Cao X. Halofuginone attenuates osteoarthritis by inhibition of TGF-β activity and H-type vessel formation in subchondral bone. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. 2015 Oct 15. PMID: 26470720

Li C, Zhen G, Chai Y, Xie L, Crane JL, Farber E, Farber CR, Luo X, Gao P, Cao X, Wan M. RhoA determines lineage fate of mesenchymal stem cells by modulating CTGF-VEGF complex in extracellular matrix. Nature Communication. 2016 Apr 29;7:11455. PMID: 27126736

Johnson B,  Lancaster K, Zhen G,  He J,  Gupta1 M,  Kong Y, Engel E, Krick K,  Ju1 A, Fanben Meng F, Enquist L, Jia X, McAlpine M. 3D Printed Anatomical Nerve Regeneration Pathways. Advance Functional Materials. 2015 Oct 21. Volume 25, Issue 39, pages 6205–6217. PMID: 26924958

Zhen G, Cao X. TGFβ Signaling in Joint Homeostasis and Therapeutic Implications for Osteoarthritis. Trends in Pharmacological Sciences. 2014 35(5):227-36.  PMID: 22646092

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