Zhiliang Cheng, Ph.D.

Research Associate Professor

Department of Bioengineering, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104


Tel: 215-746-5887

Office: 117 Hayden Hall



My current research in University of Pennsylvania has been focused on the development of novel imaging agents and drug delivery systems. Specifically, I am developing new formulations of multifunctional nanoparticles including liposomes, polymersomes and micelles, for in vivo imaging and targeted drug delivery to facilitate the realization of individual therapy. The long-term goal of my research is to develop new nanotechnology for better understanding of biology, early diagnosis of disease, monitoring therapy response, and for guiding drug discovery/development. Once implemented, these technologies will provide more options to the clinician in providing personalized patient care, at an earlier time point, than currently available methods.




1. Nanoparticle-based magnetic resonance contrast agents

2. Multifunctional nanoparticles for controlled drug delivery

3. Nanotechnology for low back pain treatment

4. Nanotechnology for osteoarthritis (OA) treatment





Peter J. Altshuler, Alexis R. Schiazza, Lijun Luo, Mark R. Helmers, Bonirath Chhay, Jason J. Han, Robin Hu, D. Alan Herbst, Andrew Tsourkas, Zhiliang Cheng,* Pavan Atluri.* Superoxide Dismutase-Loaded Nanoparticles Attenuate Myocardial Ischemia-Reperfusion Injury and Protect Against Chronic Adverse Ventricular Remodeling. Accepted by Advanced Therapeutics.


Yulong Wei, Lesan Yan, Lijun Luo, Tao Gui, Biang Jang, Ahmad Amirshaghaghi, Tianyan You, Andrew Tsourkas, Ling Qin,* Zhiliang Cheng.* Phospholipase A2 inhibitor-loaded micellar nanoparticles attenuate inflammation and mitigate osteoarthritis progression. Science Advances. 2021, 7, eabe6374. (Full Text) (News Release)



Yulong Wei, Lijun Luo, Tao Gui, Feifan Yu, Lesan Yan, Lutian Yao, Leilei Zhong, Wei Yu, Biao Han, Jay M. Patel, Jessica F. Liu, Frank Beier, Lawrence Scott Levin, Charles Nelson, Zengwu Shao, Lin Han, Robert L. Mauck, Andrew Tsourkas, Jaimo Ahn, Zhiliang Cheng,* and Ling Qin.* Targeting cartilage EGFR pathway for osteoarthritis treatment. Science Translational Medicine. 2021, 13, eabb3946. (Abstract) (Highlights)


A picture containing diagram

Description automatically generated



Xiaoya Bi, Libo Li, Xiaohong Liu, Lijun Luo, Zhiliang Cheng, Jinying Sun, Zhibin Cai, Jinming Liu, Tianyan You. Inner filter effect-modulated ratiometric fluorescence aptasensor based on competition strategy for zearalenone detection in cereal crops: Using mitoxantrone as quencher of CdTe QDs@SiO2. Food Chemistry. 2021, 349, 1-8. (Abstract)


A picture containing diagram

Description automatically generated




Clare W. Teng, Ahmad Amirshaghaghi, Steve S. Cho, Shuting S. Cai, Emma De Ravin, Yash Singh, Joann Miller, Saad Sheikh, Edward Delikatny, Zhiliang Cheng, Theresa M. Busch, Jay F. Dorsey, Sunil Singhal, Andrew Tsourkas & John Y. K. Lee. Combined fluorescence-guided surgery and photodynamic therapy for glioblastoma multiforme using cyanine and chlorin nanocluster. Journal of Neuro-Oncology, 2020, 149, 243-252. (Abstract).



Sonia Kartha, Lesan Yan, Meagan E. Ita, Ahmad Amirshaghaghi, Lijun Luo, Yulong Wei, Andrew Tsourkas, Beth A. Winkelstein, and Zhiliang Cheng.* Phospholipase A2 Inhibitor-Loaded Phospholipid Micelles Abolish Neuropathic Pain, ACS Nano, 2020, 14, 8103. (Abstract)


Abstract Image


Lijun Luo, Lesan Yan, Ahmad Amirshaghaghi, Yulong Wei, Tianyan You, Sunil Singhal, Andrew Tsourkas* and Zhiliang Cheng.* Indocyanine Green-Coated Polycaprolactone Micelles for Fluorescence Imaging of Tumors, ACS Applied Bio Materials, 2020, 3, 2344. (Abstract)


Abstract Image


Jessica F. Liu, Ziyang Lan, Carolina Ferrari, Joel M. Stein, Elizabeth Higbee-Dempsey, Lesan Yan, Ahmad Amirshaghaghi, Zhiliang Cheng, David Issadore,* Andrew Tsourkas.* Use of oppositely-polarized external magnets to improve the accumulation and penetration of magnetic nanocarriers into solid tumors, ACS Nano, 2020, 14, 142. (Abstract)


Abstract Image



Lesan Yan, Lijun Luo, Ahmad Amirshaghaghi, Joann Miller, Cathy Meng, Tianyan You, Theresa M. Busch, Andrew Tsourkas, Zhiliang Cheng.* Dextran-Benzoporphyrin Derivative (BPD) Coated Superparamagnetic Iron Oxide Nanoparticle (SPION) Micelles for T2-Weighted Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Photodynamic Therapy, Bioconjugate Chemistry, 2019, 30, 2974. (Abstract)


A picture containing food

Description automatically generated


Ahmad Amirshaghaghi, Lesan Yan, Joann Miller, Yonathan Daniel, Joel M. Stein, Theresa M. Busch, Zhiliang Cheng, Andrew Tsourkas.* Chlorin e6-Coated Superparamagnetic Iron Oxide Nanoparticle (SPION) Nanoclusters as a Theranostic Agent for Dual-Mode Imaging and Photodynamic Therapy, Scientific Reports. 2019, 9, 2613. (Abstract)



Ying Wang, Kun Qi, Shansheng Yu, Guangri Jia, Zhiliang Cheng, Lirong Zheng, Qiong Wu, Qiaoliang Bao, Qingqing Wang, Jingxiang Zhao,* Xiaoqiang Cui,* Weitao Zheng. Revealing the Intrinsic Peroxidase-Like Catalytic Mechanism of Heterogeneous Single-Atom Co–MoS2. Nano-Micro Letters, 2019, 11, 102. (Abstract)

A picture containing text, indoor, bowl, different

Description automatically generated


Bo Shang, Xiaoqiang Cui,* Lin Jiao, Kun Qi, Yingwei Wang, Jinchang Fan, Yuanyuan Yue, Haiyu Wang, Qiaoliang Bao, Xiaofeng Fan, Zhiliang Cheng, Shaojun Guo, and Weitao Zheng*. Lattice Mismatch Induced Ultra-stable 1T-Phase MoS2-Pd/Au for Plasmon-Enhanced Hydrogen Evolution, Nano Letters. 2019, 19, 2758-2764. (Abstract)




Yonghua Zhang, Junjie Ai, Yanan Dong, Shiyu Zhang, Qiang Gao*, Honglan Qi, Chengxiao Zhang, Zhiliang Cheng*. Combining 3D graphene-like screen-printed carbon electrode with methylene blue-loaded liposomal nanoprobes for phospholipase A2 detection. Biosensors and Bioelectronics, 2018, 126, 255-260. (Abstract)




Ahmad Amirshaghaghi, Burcin Altun, Kido New, Lesan Yan, Joel M. Stein, Zhiliang Cheng, Andrew Tsourkas*. Site-Specific Labeling of Cyanine and Porphyrin Dye-Stabilized Nanoemulsions with Affibodies for Cellular Targeting. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2018, 140, 13550-13553. (Abstract)




Jessica F. Liu, Nishant Neel, Phillip Dang, Max Lamb, Jaime McKenna, Lauren Rodgers, Brian Litt, Zhiliang Cheng, Andrew Tsourkas*, David Issadore*. Radiofrequency-Triggered Drug Release from Nanoliposomes with Millimeter-Scale Resolution Using a Superimposed Static Gating Field. Small, 2018, 14, 1802563. (Abstract)





Lesan Yan, Ahmad Amirshaghaghi, Dennis Huang, Joann Miller, Joel M. Stein, Theresa M. Busch, Zhiliang Cheng*, Andrew Tsourkas*. Protoporphyrin IX (PpIX) Coated Superparamagnetic Iron Oxide Nanoparticle (SPION) Nanoclusters for Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Photodynamic Therapy. Advanced Functional Materials. 2018, 28, 1707030. (Abstract)




Bo Shang, Pengfei Ma, Jinchang Fan, Lin Jiao, Zijian Liu, Zheyu Zhang, Nuo Chen, Zhiliang Cheng, Xiaoqiang Cui*, Weitao Zheng*. Stabilized monolayer 1T MoS2 embedded in CoOOH for highly efficient overall water splitting. Nanoscale, 2018, 10, 12330-12336. (Abstract)





Sonia Kartha, Lesan Yan, Christine L. Weisshaar, Meagan E. Ita, Vladimir V. Shuvaev, Vladimir R. Muzykantov, Andrew Tsourkas, Beth A. Winkelstein,* and Zhiliang Cheng*. Superoxide Dismutase-Loaded Porous Polymersomes as Highly Efficient Antioxidants for Treating Neuropathic Pain. Advanced Healthcare Materials. 2017, 6, 1700500. (Abstract)



Lesan Yan, Joann Miller, Min Yuan, Jessica F. Liu, Theresa M. Busch, Andrew Tsourkas, and Zhiliang Cheng*. Improved Photodynamic Therapy Efficacy of Protoporphyrin IX-Loaded Polymeric Micelles Using Erlotinib Pretreatment. Biomacromolecules, 2017, 18 (6), 1836-1844. (Abstract)





Di Li, Weiguo Xu, Pengqiang Li, Jianxun Ding*, Zhiliang Cheng, Li Chen, Lesan Yan*, and Xuesi Chen. Self-Targeted Polysaccharide Prodrug Suppresses Orthotopic Hepatoma. Molecular Pharmaceutics, 2016, 13 (12), 4231-4235. (Abstract)



Junling Li, Yonghua Zhang, Junjie Ai, Qiang Gao*, Honglan Qi, Chengxiao Zhang, Zhiliang Cheng*. Quantum dot cluster (QDC)-loaded phospholipid micelles as FRET probe for phospholipase A2 detection. RSC Advances. 2016 Jan 1;6(19):15895-15899. (Abstract)



Jingzhuan Wan, Junjie Ai, Yonghua Zhang, Xiaohui Geng, Qiang Gao*, Zhiliang Cheng*. Signal-off impedimetric immunosensor for detection of Escherichia coli O157:H7. Scientific Reports. 2016; 6:19806. (Abstract)






Lesan Yan, Elizabeth Higbee, Andrew Tsourkas, Zhiliang Cheng*. A simple method for the synthesis polymeric vesicles and their application as MR contrast agent. Journal of Materials Chemistry B. 2015, 3, 9277-9284. (Abstract)




Guilong Zhang, Shiyao Lu, Junchao Qian, Kai Zhong, Jianming Yao, Dongqing Cai,* Zhiliang Cheng* and Zhengyan Wu*. Magnetic relaxation switch detecting boric acid or borate ester through one-pot synehesized polyvinyl alcohol functionalized nanomagnetic iron oxide. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 2015, 7 (30), 16837-16841. (Abstract)




Qiang Gao, Lesan Yan, Michael Chiorazzo, Jim Delikatny, Andrew Tsourkas and Zhiliang Cheng*. PLA2-responsive and SPIO-loaded phospholipid micelles. Chemical Communications, 2015, 51, 12313-12315. (Abstract)



Lesan Yan, Samuel H. Crayton, Jayesh P. Thawani, Ahmad Amirshaghaghi, Andrew Tsourkas, and Zhiliang Cheng*. A pH-responsive drug delivery platform based on glycol chitosan-coated liposomes. Small, 2015, 11(37), 4870-4874. (Abstract)




McQuade C, Al Zaki A, Desai Y, Vido M, Sakhuja T, Cheng Z, Hickey RJ, Joh D, Park SJ, Kao G, Dorsey JF, Tsourkas A. A Multifunctional Nanoplatform for Imaging, Radiotherapy, and the Prediction of Therapeutic Response. Small. 2015,11(7), 834-843. (Abstract)



Shayanne A. Lajud, Danish A. Nagda, Peter Qiao, Nobuaki Tanaka, Alyssa Civantos, Rende Gu, Zhiliang Cheng, Andrew Tsourkas, Bert W. Oalley Jr, Daqing Li. A Novel Chitosan-Hydrogel-Based Nanoparticle Delivery System for Local Inner Ear Application. Otology & Neurotology, 2015, 36(2) 341-347. (Abstract)




Zhiliang Cheng*, Andrew Tsourkas. Monitoring Phospholipase A2 Activity with Gd-encapsulated Phospholipid Liposomes. Scientific Reports. doi: 10.1038/srep06958. (Abstract)



Zhiliang Cheng,* Ajlan Al Zaki, Ian W Jones, Henry K Hall, Craig A Aspinwall, Andrew Tsourkas. Stabilized porous liposomes with encapsulated Gd-labeled dextran as a highly efficient MRI contrast agent. Chemical Communications, 2014, 50(19), 2502-2504. (Abstract)



James Zhe Hui, Ajlan Al Zaki, Zhiliang Cheng, Vladimir Popik, Hongtao Zhang, Eline T. LuningPrak, Andrew Tsourkas. Facile Method for the Site-Specific, Covalent Attachment of Full-LengthIgG onto Nanoparticles. Small, 2014, 10(16): 3354-3363. (Abstract)




Ajlan Al Zaki, Daniel Joh, Zhiliang Cheng, Andr Lus Branco De Barros, Gary Kao, Jay Dorsey, and Andrew Tsourkas. Gold-Loaded Polymeric Micelles for Computed Tomography-Guided Radiation Therapy Treatment and Radiosensitization. ACS Nano, 2014, 8(1), 104-112. (Abstract)





Zhiliang Cheng, Ajlan Al-Zaki, James Z Hui, Vladimir R. Muzykantov, Andrew Tsourkas. Multifunctional Nanoparticles: Evaluating the cost versus benefit of adding targeting and imaging capabilities. Science 2012, 338(6109):903-910. (Abstract)



Thusitha P. Muhandiramlage, Zhiliang Cheng, David L. Roberts, John P. Keogh, Henry K. Hall, Jr. and Craig A. Aspinwall. Determination of pore sizes and relative porosity in porous nanoshellarchitectures using dextran retention with single monomer resolution and proton permeation. Analytical Chemistry 2012, 84(22):9754-9761. (Abstract)



Zhiliang Cheng, Ajlan Al-Zaki, James Z Hui, Andrew Tsourkas. Simultaneous quantification of tumor uptake for targeted and nontargeted liposomes and their encapsulated contents by ICPMS. Analytical Chemistry. 2012,84(17):7578-7582. (Abstract)



Sameul H Crayton, Andrew Elias, Ajlan Al-Zaki, Zhiliang Cheng, Andrew Tsourkas. ICP-MS analysis of Lanthanide-doped nanoparticles as a non-radiative, multiplex approach to quantifybiodistribution and blood clearance. Biomaterials 2012, 33(5):1509-1519. (Abstract)




Zhiliang Cheng, Drew R Elias, Neha P Kamat, Eric D Johnston, Andrei Poloukhtine, Vladimir Popik, Daniel A Hammer, Andrew Tsourkas. Improved tumor targeting of polymer-based nanovesicles using polymer-lipid blends. Bioconjugate Chemistry 2011, 22(10):2021-2029. (Abstract)




Zhiliang Cheng, Antony K Chen, Ha-Young Lee, Andrew Tsourkas. Examination of folate-targeted liposomes with encapsulated poly(2-propylacrylic acid) as a pH-responsive nanoplatform for cytosolic drug delivery. Small 2010, 6(13):1398-1401. (Abstract)



Zhiliang Cheng, Daniel L J Thorek, Andrew Tsourkas. Gd-conjugated dendrimer nanoclusters as a tumor-targeted T1 magnetic resonance imaging contrast agent. Angewandte Chemie International Edition 2010, 49(2):346-350. (Abstract)



Drew R Elias, Zhiliang Cheng, Andrew Tsourkas. An intein-mediated site-specific click conjugation strategy for improved tumor targeting of nanoparticle systems. Small 2010, 6(21):2460-2468. (Abstract)




Zhiliang Cheng, Daniel L J Thorek, Andrew Tsourkas. Porous polymersomes with encapsulated Gd-labeled dendrimers as highly efficient MRI contrast agents. Advanced Functional Materials 2009,19(23):3753-3759. (Abstract)



Zhiliang Cheng, Andrew Tsourkas. Paramagnetic porous polymersomes, Langmuir, 2008, 24(15):8169-8173. PMID: 18570445 (Abstract)



Antony K Chen, Zhiliang Cheng, Mark A Behlke, Andrew Tsourkas. Assessing the sensitivity of commercially available fluorophores to the intracellular environment, Analytical Chemistry, 2008, 80(19):7437-7444. (Abstract)




Zhiliang Cheng, Gemma D D'Ambruoso, Craig A Aspinwall, Stabilized porous phospholipid nanoshells, Langmuir, 2006, 22, 9507-9511. (Abstract)



Zhiliang Cheng, Craig AAspinwall, Nanometre-sized molecular oxygen sensors prepared from polymer stabilized phospholipids vesicles, Analyst, 2006, 131, 236-243. (Abstract)




More Publications



Recent news: