Yun-Ju Lai 800

Yun-Ju Lai, Ph.D., MS, RN

Assistant Professor

Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences
Susan and Alan Solomont School of Nursing
Health and Social Sciences Building 295


Neuroscience, oncology, inflammation, and mind-body connection

Research Interests

  • Mind and body connection in stroke and deconditioned population
  • Inflammatory response in COVID-19 and cancer patients
  • Mental health and cancer recovery


  • Ph.D. (2019), Cizik School of Nursing, UT-Health Science Center, Houston, TX
  • B.S.N. (2015), Cizik School of Nursing, UT-Health Science Center, Houston, TX
  • M.S. (2002), Life Science, National Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan


Yun-Ju Lai, Ph.D., MA, RN, an assistant professor in the Solomont School of Nursing, researches the relationship between optimism, inflammation, and stroke recovery. She was recognized in an award-winning interview at the 2020 International Stroke Conference and reported by CNN, “Another win for optimism! Recovery after stroke.” Her study showed that optimism might reduce stroke severity and inflammation; thus, boosting morale may be an ideal way to improve mental health and recovery after a stroke.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, her postdoctoral research at Academia Sinica in Taiwan focused on the role of inflammation in SARS-CoV-2 infection. Using RNAseq analysis, she identified SARS-CoV-2 and ACE2 transcriptome and further used the information to identify potent inhibitors that can block SARS-CoV-2 viral entry and replication. She has filed a patent, and the manuscript is in submission. She will continue to use computer programming to study SARS-CoV-2 pathogenesis to identify a new therapeutic strategy to fight against COVID-19. She received her Ph.D. degree from the Cizik School of Nursing at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and was the recipient of the American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship.

Selected Publications

  • Wang, S.H., Lee, T.A., Kuo, C.T., Lai, Y.J., and Li, C.W. (2022). γδ T cells in 3D culture: The potential use in the therapeutics development. Clinical and Translational Discovery, 2 e75.
  • Lee, T.A., Wang, S.H., Kuo, C.T., Li, C.W., Bello, D., McCullough, L.D., Lai, Y.J. (2022). Prognostic serum biomarkers in cancer patients with COVID-19: a systematic review. Translational Oncology, 21:101443. May 2.
  • Noh, B., Blasco Conesa, M.P., Lai, Y.J., Ganesh, B.P., Urayama, A., Moreno-Gonzalez, I., Marrelli, S., McCullough, L.D., Moruno-Manchon, J.F. (2022). G-quadruplexes stabilization upregulates CCN1 and accelerates aging in cultured cerebral endothelial cells. Frontiers in Aging, 2.
  • Huang, H.C.*, Lai, Y.J.*, Liao, C.C.*, Yang, W.F.*, Huang, K.B., Lee, I.J., Chou, W.C., Wang, S.H., Wang, L.H., Hsu, J.M., Sun, C.P., Kuo, C.T., Wang, J., Hsiao, T.C., Yang, P.J., Lee, T.A., Huang, W., Li, F.A., Shen, C.Y., Lin, Y.L., Tao, M.H. and Li, C.W. (2021). Targeting conserved N-glycosylation blocks SARS-CoV-2 variant infection in vitro. EBioMedicine, 74, 103712 (*authors contributed equally)
  • Hsieh, W.C., Lai, E.Y., Liu, Y.T., Wang, Y.F., Tzeng, Y.S., Cui, L., Lai, Y.J., Huang, H.C., Huang, J.H., Ni, H.C., Tsai, D.Y., Liang, J.J., Liao, C.C., Lu, Y.T., Jiang, L., Liu, M.T., Wang, J.T., Chang, S.Y., Chen, C.Y., Tsai, H.C., Chang, Y.M., Wernig, G., Li, C.W., Lin, K.I., Lin, Y.L., Tsai, H.K., Huang, Y.T., and Chen, S.Y. (2021). NK cell receptor and ligand composition influences the clearance of SARS-CoV-2. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 131(21):e146408.
  • McCullough, L.D., Roy-O'Reilly, M., Lai, Y.J., Patrizz, A., Xu, Y., Lee, J., Holmes, A., Kraushaar, D.C., Chauhan, A., Sansing, L.H., Stonestreet, B.S., Zhu, L., Kofler, J., Lim, Y.P., and Venna, V.R. (2021). Exogenous inter-alpha inhibitor proteins prevent cell death and improve ischemic stroke outcomes in mice. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 131(17):e144898.
  • Sun, C.P., Jan, J.T., Wang, I.H., Ma, H.H., Ko, H.Y., Wu, P.Y., Kuo, T.J., Liao, H.N., Lan, Y.H., Sie, Z.L., Chen, Y.H., Ko, Y.A., Liao, C.C., Chen, L.Y,, Lee, I.J., Tsung, S.I., Lai, Y.J., Chiang, M.T., Liang, J.J., Wang, J.R., Yuan, P.Y., Lin, Y.S., Tsai, Y.C., Hsieh, S.L., Li, C.W., Wu, H.C., Ko, T.M., Lin, Y.L., and Tao, M.H. (2021). Rapid Generation of Mouse Model for Emerging Infectious Disease with the Case of Severe COVID-19. PLoS Pathogens, 11;17(8):e1009758.
  • Huang, H.C.#, Liao, C.C.#, Wang, S.H., I-Jung Lee, I.J., Lee, T.A., Hsu, J.M., Kuo, C.T., Wang, J., Hsieh, W.C., Chang, S.J., Chen, S.Y., Tao, M.H., Lin, Y.L., Lai, Y.J.* and Li, C.W.* (2021). Hyperglycosylated Spike of SARS-CoV-2 Gamma Variant Induces Breast Cancer Metastasis. American Journal of Cancer Research, 11(10):4994-5005. (*authors contributed equally)
  • Lai, Y.J., Chao, C.H., Liao, C.C., Lee, T.A., Hsu, J.M., Chou, W.C., Wang, J., Huang, H.C., Chang, S.J., Lin, Y.L., and Li, C.W. (2021). Epithelial-mesenchymal transition induced by SARS-CoV-2 required transcriptional upregulation of Snail. American Journal of Cancer Research, 11(5): 2278–2290.
  • Sun, L.*, Li, C.W.*, Chung, E.M., Yang, R., Kim, Y.S., Park, A., Lai, Y.J., Yang, Y., Wang, Y.H., Liu, J., Qiu, Y., Khoo, K.H., Yao, J., Hsu, J.L., Cha, J.H., Chan, L.C., Hsu, J.M., Lee, H.H., Yoo, S.S., and Hung, M.C. (2020). Targeting glycosylated PD-1 induces potent anti-tumor immunity. Cancer Research, 80(11): 2298–2310. June 1. (*authors contributed equally).
  • Patrizz, A., Doran, S.J., Chauhan, A., Ahnstedt, H., Roy-O’Reilly, M., Lai, Y.J., Weston, G., Tarabishy, S., Patel, A.R., Verma, R., Staff, I., Kofler, J.K., Ritzel, R.M., Liu, F., McCullough, L.D. (2020). EMMPRIN/CD147 Plays a Detrimental Role in Clinical and Experimental Ischemic Stroke. Aging, 12(6): 5121–5139. Mar 31.
  • Sun, X., Li, C.W., Wang, W.J., Chen, M.K., Li, H., Lai, Y.J., Hsu, J.L., Koller, P.B., Chan, L.C., Lee, P.C., Cheng, F.J., Yam, C., Chen, G.Y., Hung, M.C. (2020). Inhibition of c-MET upregulates PD-L1 expression in lung adenocarcinoma. American Journal of Cancer Research, 10(2):564-571. Feb 1.
  • Bu, F., Min, J., Munshi, Y., Lai, Y.J., Qi, L., Urayama, A., McCullough, L.D., Li, J. (2019). Activation of Endothelial Ras-Related C3 Botulinum Toxin Substrate 1 (Rac1) Improves Post-Stroke Recovery and Angiogenesis via Activating Pak1 in Mice. Experimental Neurology, 322:113059. Sep 6.
  • Chan, L.C., Li, C.W., Xia, W., Hsu, J.M., Lee, H.H., Cha, J.H., Wang, H.L., Yang, W.H., Yen, E.Y., Chang, W.C., Zha, Z., Lim, S.O., Lai, Y.J., Liu, C., Liu, J., Dong, Q., Yang, Y., Sun, L., Wei, Y., Nie, L., Hsu, J.L., Li, H., Ye, Q., Hassan, M.M., Kaseb, A.O., Lin, X., Wang, S.C., and Hung, M.C. (2019). IL-6/JAK1 drives PD-L1 Y112 phosphorylation to promote cancer immune evasion. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 129(8):3324-3338.
  • Li, H., Li, C.W., Li, X., Ding, Q., Guo, L., Liu, S., Liu, C., Lai, C.C., Hsu, J.M., Dong, Q., Xia, W., Hsu, J.L., Yamaguchi, H., Du, Y., Lai, Y.J., Sun, X., Koller, P.B., Ye, Q., Hung, M.C. (2019). MET Inhibitors Promote Liver Tumor Evasion of the Immune Response by Stabilizing PDL1. Gastroenterology, 156(6):1849-1861.
  • Lai, Y.J., Hanneman, S.K., Wang, J., Casarez, R., McCullough, L.D. (2019). Blood Biomarkers for Physical Recovery in Ischemic Stroke: A Systematic Review. American Journal of Translational Research, 11(8):4603-4613.

Selected Contracts, Fellowships, Grants and Sponsored Research

  • Optimism with sleep quality, stress, and mental health among college students returning to classes during the COVID-19 pandemic (2022)
    Grant - Donna Manning Pilot Research program
    Lai, Y.J. (Principal), Zhang, Y. (Co-investigator)
  • Optimism and rehabilitation outcomes for deconditioned veterans (2022),
    Grant - Bedford VA Healthcare System - University of Massachusetts Lowell Collaborative Seed Grants
    Lai, Y.J. (Principal), Lim, L.S. (Co-Principal), Harris, J.I. (Co-investigator), Harrington, J. (Co-investigator), King, S. (Co-investigator), Gaines, P. (Co-investigator), Mangano, K. (Co-investigator)