Biologist’s Book Explores Role of Key Blood Component

Dr. Li Zhang, professor of molecular and cell biology at UT Dallas, edited and contributed to a new book titled Heme Biology – the Secret Life of Heme in Regulating Diverse Biological Processes. The book, released this month, details the myriad functions of heme and outlines the latest research about the molecule.

Heme is the iron-containing molecule in hemoglobin that gives blood its deep red hue and binds to oxygen, allowing for its distribution throughout the body.

“The field has progressed significantly throughout the last decade,” Zhang said. “It’s something I’ve studied for years now, and I thought it was the right time to work on this project.”

Throughout her more than 15-year career, Zhang has made significant contributions to the field of molecular biology—particularly in the study of heme signaling and its role in tumor development, shortage of blood supply to tissues in the body and defective heme synthesis.

Heme Biology by Dr. Li Zhang book cover


“Writing this book was a lot of work, but it’s about a field I care a lot of about. I hope to make it interesting for others,” Zhang said.

Heme, she said, is a simple but fascinating molecule with multifaceted properties. Throughout the book, Zhang described the processes that heme regulates in the body and problems that arise when the process malfunctions.

“Heme has a ‘Jeckyll and Hyde’ aspect to it,” Zhang said. “If produced correctly, it is vital to life, but when abnormalities are present in heme production, it can lead to life-threatening problems.”

Porphyria, for instance, is a group of genetic disorders caused by malfunctions in heme production that can cause light sensitivity, pain and nervous system disorders.

“I feel very honored that I was approached to write a summary like this that embodies my field of work and represent the contributions others have made to our understanding of heme,” Zhang said.

The book is published by World Scientific.

Dr. Zhang joined the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology in 2007 as professor and department head, coming from Columbia University, where she was professor of Environmental Health Sciences. Dr. Zhang also holds the Cecil H. and Ida Green Distinguished Chair in Systems Biology Science.

Dr. Li Zhang has been recognized for her  contributions in molecular biology— particularly in the study of heme signaling and its role in tumor development and shortage of blood supply to body tissues.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].