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Wei Chao, MD, PhD, FAHA

Anesthesiology Endowed Professor of Translational Research

Academic Title:


Primary Appointment:


Secondary Appointment(s):


Administrative Title:

Vice-Chair For Translational Research; Co-Director of the STAR Center

Additional Title:

Co-Director, Center for Shock, Trauma and Anesthesiology Research



Phone (Primary):

(410) 706-2566


(410) 328-5531

Education and Training

M.D. - Hunan Medical College, Changsha, China
Ph.D. - Biochemistry, University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, San Antonio, TX
Postdoc Fellow - University of California, San Diego, CA
Internship - Framingham Union Hospital, Framingham, MA
Residency - Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA


2000-2003: Fellow, Cardiovascular Research Center, Mass General Hospital, Harvard Medical School
1999-2002: Instructor, Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine, Mass General Hospital, Harvard Medical School
2003-2009: Assistant Professor in Anesthesia, Mass General Hospital, Harvard Medical School
2009-2015: Associate Professor in Anesthesia, Mass General Hospital, Harvard Medical School
2016-2019: The Dean’s Endowed Professor in Anesthesiology, Vice-Chair for Translational Research, Department of Anesthesiology, University of Maryland School of Medicine
2019-present: The Anesthesiology Endowed Professor in Translational Research, Vice-Chair, Department of Anesthesiology, University of Maryland School of Medicine
2020-present: Co-Director, Center for Shock, Trauma and Anesthesiology Research, University of Maryland School of Medicine   

Highlighted Publications

Suen AO, Chen F, Wang S, Li Z, Zhu J, Yang Y, Conn O, Lopez K, Cui P, Wechsler L, Cross A, Fiskum G, Kozar R, Hu P, Miller C, Zou L, Williams B, Chao W. Extracellular RNA Sensing Mediates Inflammation and Organ Injury in a Murine Model of Polytrauma. J Immunol. 2023 May 3. View Article

Williams, B, Kozar, R; Chao, W. Emerging Role of Extracellular RNA in Innate Immunity, Sepsis, and Trauma (Review). SHOCK. 2023 Feb 1;59(2):190-199. View Article

Ding W, Fischer L, Chen Q, Li Z, Yang L, You Z, Hu K, Wu X, Zhou X, Chao W, Hu P, Dagnew TM, DuBreuil DM, Wang S, Xia S, Bao C, Zhu S, Chen L, Wang C, Wainger B, Jin P, Mao J, Feng G, Harnett MT, Shen S. Highly synchronized cortical circuit dynamics mediate spontaneous pain in mice. J Clin Invest. 2023 Jan 5:e166408. doi: 10.1172/JCI166408. PMID: 36602876. View Article

Zeineddin A, Wu F, Chao W, Zhou L, Vesselinov R, Chipman A, Dong JF, Huang H, Pati S, Kozar RA. Biomarkers Of Endothelial Cell Dysfunction Persist Beyond Resuscitation In Patients With Hemorrhagic Shock. J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2022 Aug 5. doi: 10.1097/TA.0000000000003758. PMID: 35939376. View Article

Williams B, Zhu J, Zou L, Chao W. Innate immune TLR7 signaling mediates platelet activation and platelet-leukocyte aggregate formation in murine bacterial sepsis. Platelets. 2022 Aug 3:1-9. doi: 10.1080/09537104.2022.2107627. PMID: 35920588. View Article 

Huang H, Zhu J, Gu L, Hu J, Feng X, Huang W, Wang S, Yang Y, Cui P, Lin SH, Suen A, Shimada BK, Williams B, Kane MA, Ke Y, Zhang CO, Birukova AA, Birukov KG, Chao W, Zou L. TLR7 Mediates Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome in Sepsis by Sensing Extracellular miR-146a. Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2022 Jun 9. doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2021-0551OC. PMID: 35679261. View Article (Editorial Article)

Wang S, Yang Y, Suen A, Zhu J, Williams B, Hu J, Chen F, Kozar R, Shen S, Li Z, Jeyaram A, Jay SM, Zou L, Chao W. Role of extracellular microRNA-146a-5p in host innate immunity and bacterial sepsis. iScience. 24(12), 103441. PMID: 34877498. 2021 View Article 

Zou L, He J, Gu L, Shahror RA, Li Y, Cao T, Wang S, Zhu J, Huang H, Chen F, Fan X, Wu J, Chao W. Brain innate immune response via miRNA-TLR7 sensing in polymicrobial sepsis. Brain Behav Immun. 100, 10-24. PMID: 34808293. 2021 View Article

Brammer J, Wolf G, Baliban SM, Allen JC, Choi M, Kambouris AR, Simon R, Fiskum G, Chao W, Lopez K, Miller C, Singh NJ, Cross AS. A non-lethal full-thickness flame burn produces a seroma beneath the forming eschar thereby promoting Pseudomonas aeruginosa sepsis in mice. J Burn Care Res. PMID: 34739051. 2021 View Article

Kronstadt SM, Pottash AE, Levy D, Wang S, Chao W, Jay SM. Therapeutic Potential of Extracellular Vesicles for Sepsis Treatment. Adv Ther (Weinh). 4(7). PMID: 34423113. 2021 View Article

Brammer J, Choi M, Baliban SM, Kambouris AR, Fiskum G, Chao W, Lopez K, Miller C, Al-Abed Y, Vogel SN, Simon R, Cross AS. A Nonlethal Murine Flame Burn Model Leads to a Transient Reduction in Host Defenses and Enhanced Susceptibility to Lethal Pseudomonas aeruginosa Infection. Infect Immun. 89(10), e0009121. PMID: 34152806. 2021 View Article

Shimada BK, Boyman L, Huang W, Zhu J, Yang Y, Chen F, Kane MA, Yadava N, Zou L, Lederer WJ, Polster BM, Chao W. Pyruvate-Driven Oxidative Phosphorylation is Downregulated in Sepsis-Induced Cardiomyopathy: A Study Of Mitochondrial Proteome. Shock. PMID: 34506367. 2021 View Article

Chen F, Zou L, Williams B, Chao W. Targeting Toll-Like Receptors in Sepsis - From Bench to Clinical Trials. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2021 Feb 15 PMID: 33588628 View Article

Lopez K, Suen A, Yang Y, Wang S, Williams B, Zhu J, Hu J, Fiskum G, Cross A, Kozar R, Miller C, Zou L, Chao W. Hypobaria Exposure Worsens Cardiac Function and Endothelial Injury in an Animal Model of Polytrauma: Implications for Aeromedical Evacuation. Shock. 2020 Dec 23; PMID: 33394971 View Article

Shimada BK, Yang Y, Zhu J, Wang S, Suen A, Kronstadt SM, Jeyaram A, Jay SM, Zou L, Chao W. Extracellular miR-146a-5p Induces Cardiac Innate Immune Response and Cardiomyocyte Dysfunction. Immunohorizons. 2020 Sep 21;4(9):561-572. PMID: 32958516 View Article

Wu F, Wang JY, Chao W, Sims C, Kozar RA. miR-19b targets pulmonary endothelial syndecan-1 following hemorrhagic shock. Sci Rep. 2020 Sep 25;10(1):15811. PMID: 32978505 View Article

Jeyaram A, Lamichhane TN, Wang S, Zou L, Dahal E,  Kronstadt SM, Levy D, Parajuli B, Knudsen DR, Chao W,  Jay SM. Enhanced Loading of Functional miRNA Cargo via pH Gradient Modification of Extracellular Vesicles. Mol Ther. 2019 Dec 24. PMID: 31911034. View Article

Williams B, Neder J, Cui P, Suen A, Tanaka K, Zou L, Chao W. Toll-like receptor 2 and 7 mediate coagulation activation and coagulopathy in murine sepsis. J. Thromb. Haemost. PMID: 31211901. 2019 View Article

Jian W, Gu L, Williams B, Feng Y, Chao W, Zou L. Toll-like Receptor 7 Contributes to Inflammation, Organ Injury, and Mortality in Murine Sepsis. Anesthesiology. PMID: 31045897. 2019. View Article

Szabari MV, Takahashi K, Feng Y, Locascio JJ, Chao W, Carter EA, Vidal Melo MF, Musch G. Relation between Respiratory Mechanics, Inflammation, and Survival in Experimental Mechanical Ventilation. Am. J. Respir. Cell Mol. Biol.. 2019. 60(2), 179-188. PMID: 30199644. View Article

Xu J, Feng Y, Jeyaram A, Jay SM, Zou L, Chao W. Circulating Plasma Extracellular Vesicles from Septic Mice Induce Inflammation via MicroRNA- and TLR7-Dependent Mechanisms. J. Immunol. 2018. 201(11), 3392-3400. PMID: 30355788. View Article

Ding R, Xu G, Feng Y, Zou L, Chao W. Lipopeptide PAM3CYS4 Synergizes N-Formyl-Met-Leu-Phe (fMLP)-Induced Calcium Transients in Mouse Neutrophils. Shock. 2018. 50(4), 493-499. PMID: 29176405. View Article

Xu G, Feng Y, Li D, Zhou Q, Chao W, Zou L. Importance of the Complement Alternative Pathway in Serum Chemotactic Activity During Sepsis. Shock. 2018. 50(4), 435-441. PMID: 29040213. View Article

Xu J, Zou L, Feng Y, Conn O, Chao W. Extracellular Vesicle-associated miRNAs Induce Innate Immune Response in Sepsis. Circulation. 2017. 136(1). View Article

Feng Y, Zou L, Yan D, Chen H, Xu G, Jian W, Cui P, Chao W. Extracellular MicroRNAs Induce Potent Innate Immune Responses via TLR7/MyD88-Dependent Mechanisms. J. Immunol. 2017. 199(6), 2106-2117. PMID: 28768728. View Article

Chen H., Yuan H., Cho H., Feng Y., Ngoy S., Kumar A., Liao R., Chao W., Josephson L., Sosnovik D. Theranostic Nucleic Acid Binding Nanoprobe Exerts Anti-inflammatory and Cytoprotective Effects in Ischemic Injury. Theranostics. 2017. 7(4), 814-825. PMID: 28382156 View Article

Gong Y, Zou L, Cen D, Chao W, Chen D. Reduced Expression of SARM in Mouse Spleen during Polymicrobial Sepsis. Inflammation. 2016. 39(6), 1930-1938. PMID: 27590237. View Article

Zou L, Feng, Y, Xu G, Jian W, Chao W. Splenic RNA, and MicroRNA Mimics Promote Complement Factor B Production and Alternative Pathway Activation via Innate Immune Signaling. J Immunol. 2016. 196(6), 2788-2798. PMID: 26889043 View Article

Panagia M, Chen I, Chen HH, Ernande L, Chen C, Chao W, Kwong K, Scherrer-Crosbie M, Sosnovik DE. Functional and anatomical characterization of brown adipose tissue in heart failure with blood oxygen level-dependent Magnetic Resonance. NMR Biomed. 2016. 29(7), 978-84. PMID: 27226402. View Article

Li D, Zou L, Feng Y, Xu G, Yu G, Zhao G, Ouyang W, Chao W. Complement factor B production in renal tubular cells and its role in sodium transporter expression during polymicrobial sepsis. Crit Care Med. In press. 2016. 44(5), e289-e299. PMID: 26757165. View Article

Gong Y, Zou L, Chen D, Chao W. The role of myeloid differentiation factor 88 on mitochondrial dysfunction of peritoneal leukocytes during polymicrobial sepsis. Cent Eur J Immunol. 2015. 41(2), 153-8. PMID: 27536200. View Article

Feng, Y., Chen, H., Cai, J., Zou, L., Xu, G., Li, D., Chao, W. Cardiac RNA Induces Inflammatory Responses in Cardiomyocytes and Immune Cells via Toll-Like Receptor 7 signaling. J Biol Chem. 2015. 44(290), 26688-98. PMID: 26363072 View Article

Zou L, Chen HH, Li D, Xu G, Feng Y, Chen C, Wang L, Sosnovik DE, Chao W. Imaging lymphoid cell death in vivo during polymicrobial sepsis. Crit Care Med. 2015, 43:2303-12. PMID: 26335111 View Article

Thoonen R, Ernande L, Nagasaka Y, Yao V, Miranda-Bezerra A, Cheng J, Chen C, Chao W, Panagia M, Sosnovik D, Puppala D, Armoundas A, Hindle A, Bloch KD, Buys E, Scherrer-Crosbie M. Functional brown adipose Tissue limits cardiomyocyte injury and adverse remodeling in catecholamine-induced cardiomyopathy. J Mol Cell Cardiol. 2015, 84:202-211. PMID: 25968336 View Article 

Santer P, Pejo E, Feng Y, Chao W, Raines DE. Cyclopropyl-methoxycarbonyl metomidate: Studies in a lipopolysaccharide model of sepsis. Anesthesiology, 2015, 123:368-76 PMID: 26035348 View Article

Liu Y, Asnani A, Zou L, Bentley V, Yu M, Wang Y, Dellaire G, Sarkar KS, Dai M, Chen HH, Sosnovik DE, Shin JT, Haber DA, Berman J, Chao W, Peterson RT. Visnagin protects against doxorubicin-induced cardiomyopathy through inhibition of mitochondrial malate dehydrogenase. Science Translational Medicine.  2014, 6(266):266ra170. PMID: 25504881 View Article

Feng Y, Zou L, Chen C, Li D, Chao W. Role of cardiac- and myeloid-MyD88 signaling in endotoxin shock – a study with tissue-specific deletion models. Anesthesiology. 2014, 121:1258-69 (Special Harvard Issue). PMID: 25089642 View Article

Gong Y, Zou L, Feng Y, Li D, Cai J-Y, Chen D, Chao W. Importance of Toll-like receptor 2 in mitochondrial dysfunction during polymicrobial sepsis. Anesthesiology. 2014, 121:1270-80 (Special Harvard Issue) PMID: 25272245 (Editorial View: Leone M, Moreau R. Leukocyte Toll-like Receptor 2-mitochondria Axis in Sepsis.  Unraveling Immune Response Sophistication. Anesthesiology. 2014, 121:1147-9). View Article

Zhang M, Zou L, Feng Y, Chen YJ, Zhou Q, Ichinose F, Chao W. Toll-like Receptor 4 is essential to preserving cardiac function and survival in low-grade polymicrobial sepsis. Anesthesiology. 2014, 121:1270-80 (Special Harvard Issue). PMID: 24937074 View Article

Research Interests

    The Chao Lab is interested in the molecular and cellular mechanisms of sepsis, traumatic injury, and ischemic myocardial injury. We have studied the role of innate immune signaling in the pathogenesis of these critical illnesses. For these studies, we use a combination of mouse genetics (transgenics and knockouts), physiology, biochemistry, and immunology. 

    Our current work focuses on four major projects:

    First, we have imaged myocardial extracellular (ex) nucleic acids released following ischemia-reperfusion (I/R) injury and demonstrated the importance of ex-RNA in myocardial inflammation and infarct following I/R insult.

    Second, in collaboration with multiple investigators within the STAR and throughout the University of Maryland, we study the role of ex-miRNAs-TLR7 signaling in the pathogenesis of polymicrobial sepsis, such as innate immune activation, acute lung injury, myocardial bioenergetics, coagulopathy, brain inflammation, and long-term neurocognitive dysfunction. We characterized the pro-inflammatory properties of a group of U-rich miRNAs and investigated the role of ex-mRNAs and their plasma extracellular vesicle (EV) carriers in murine sepsis.

    Third, in a mouse model of polytraumatic injury, we investigate the role of innate immune signaling in the secondary inflammatory damage following trauma and the impact of hypobaric condition to the innate immune response and organ injury.

    Finally, in collaboration with investigators at MGH and the STAR Clinical informatics Group, we recently launched an interdisciplinary project designed to use machine learning and computer algorithms for enhanced pain recognition. We are currently supported by grants from NIH, Air Force, International Anesthesia Research Society, and National Science Foundation.


    Clinical Specialty Details

    Dr. Chao specializes in adult multi-specialty anesthesiology.

    Awards and Affiliations

    • Tosteson Research Award, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 1999
    • New Investigator Award, Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research, 2000 
    • Physician-Scientist Career Development Award, NHLBI, 2001
    • William F. Milton Foundation Award, Harvard University, 2006
    • Grant-In-Aid Award, American Heart Association, 2007
    • Elected Member, Association of University Anesthesiologists, 2008 - present
    • Partners in Excellence Award, Partners Health Care System, Boston, 2010
    • Elected Fellow, American Heart Association, 2016 - present
    • Frontiers in Anesthesia Research Award, International Anesthesia Research Society, 2018 - 2021
    • Anesthesiology Endowed Professor in Translational Research, 2019 - present
    • Inaugural Recipient of the Colin Mackenzie & Cristina Imle Mentoring Prize, 2021
    • R35 - Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award, NIGMS, 2021

    Grants and Contracts

    Extracellular RNA, inflammation, and sepsis
    International Anesthesia Research Society (IARS)
    Frontiers in Anesthesia Research Award - FARA-2018
    Role: Principal Investigator
    View Grant

    Targeting brain Inflammation and neurocognitive dysfunction in sepsis
    NIH/NINDS, Grant Number: R01-NS110567
    Role: Contact     PI (MPI: W. Chao, J. Wu, L. Zou)
    View Grant

    Extracellular miRNAs, Innate Immunity, and Critical Illness
    NIH/NIGMS, Grant Number: 1R35GM140822-01
    Role: Principal Investigator
    View Grant

    Trauma-induced coagulopathy: Impact of aeromedical evacuation and novel intervention
    Air Force, Grant Number: USAF/AFMC FA8650-22-2-6L02
    Role: Contact PI

    Links of Interest