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  Li Chen, PhD 

 Instructor of Molecular Epidemiology

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Dr. Li Chen is a molecular epidemiologist whose research focuses on nutritional metabolism, epigenetic predisposition, and microbiota-gut-brain axis in cardiovascular health, cognitive function, and aging. Her current research is to study the impact of leucine metabolic activity on blood pressure, cognitive function, and aging in humans, explore the microbiota-gut-brain axis as a potential underlying mechanism, and validate the causal relationship through fecal microbiota transplantation from human donors to animals. The long-term goals of her research are to discover early biomarkers of hypertension, cognitive dysfunction, and accelerated aging, identify modifiable risk factors in diet and lifestyle, and explore effective nutritional and behavioral interventions to promote healthy aging.

Postdoctoral Training
Georgia Prevention Institute, Augusta University, Augusta GA 2021


Health Policy & Management, School of Social Development and Public Policy, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China, 2014

Visiting Scholarship

Department of Medicine, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA, 2013


Nursing, School of Nursing, Health Science Center, Peking University, Beijing, China, 2009


Economics, Peking University, Beijing, China, 2009

The Roles of HMB and Sodium in Blood Pressure Regulation and Gut Microbiome

857552   AHA Career Development Award        Chen (PI)       10/1/2021 – 9/30/2024

American Heart Association

This project seeks to investigate the role of leucine/a-KIC/HMB pathway in salt-induced blood pressure elevation. It will also explore the interplay between salt, HMB, and gut microbiota. The findings of this research will uncover new molecular mechanisms linking salt to blood pressure.


Sodium intake, DNA methylation in Leucine/a-KIC/HMB pathway and blood pressure regulation.

Augusta University Intramural Grants Program                   Chen (PI)                             6/1/2022 – 5/31/2023          

Augusta University

This project will test the hypothesis that dietary sodium intake regulates leucine/α-KIC/HMB pathway by changing the DNA methylation of BCAT1, BCAT2, HPD, and HPDL, and that baseline DNA methylation levels of the genes are associated with the BP response to dietary sodium intake.


Pub Med

Chen L, Wang Z, Jing C, Hao G*. Editorial on the Research Topic Environmental Exposures and Cardiometabolic Disease. Frontiers in Public Health. 2022. (Accepted)

Hao G*, Zuo L, Weng X, Fei Q, Zhang Z, Chen L*, Wang Z*, Jing C*. Associations of road traffic noise with cardiovascular diseases and mortality: longitudinal results from UK Biobank and meta-analysis. Environmental Research. 2022;212:113129.

Chen H, Liang X, Chen L, Zuo L, Chen K, Wei Y, Chen S, Hao G*. Associations Between Household Pesticide Exposure, Smoking and Hypertension. Frontiers in Public Health. 2022. 10:754643.

Zuo L, Huang J, Zhang H, Huang B, Wu X, Chen L, Xia S, Dong X, Hao G*. Dose-Response Association Between Bilirubin and Cardiovascular Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Angiology. January 2022.

Wei Y, Liu C, Lai F, Dong S, Chen H, Chen L, Shi L, Zhu F, Lv X, Peng S, Hao G*. Associations between serum total bilirubin, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome. 2021; 13: 143.

Zhu D, Guo N, Wang J, Nicholas S, Chen L*. Longitudinal Association of Salaries for Medical Staff with Medical Service Utilization and Expenditure in China, 2007-2016. Frontiers in Public Health, section Health Economics. 2021;9(2014).

Zuo L, Chen L, Chen X, Liu M, Chen H, Hao G*. Pyrethroids exposure induces obesity and cardiometabolic diseases in a sex-different manner. Chemosphere. 2021:132935.

Hao G*, Zuo L, Xiong P, Chen L, Liang X, Jing C. Associations of PM2.5 and road traffic noise with mental health: evidence from UK Biobank. Environmental Research. 2021:112221.

Raed A, Bilz J, Cooper M, Young L, Chen L, Cromer P, Zhu H, Mazzoli A, Parikj S, Bhagatwala J, Dong YT, Sun Z, Layman D, Dong Y*. Handgrip and Sex-Specific Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in Hispanic/Latino Migrant Farmworkers. Scientific Reports. 2021; 11: 10272.

Xiong P, Liang X, Cheng H, Chen L, Zuo L, Jing C, Hao G*. Association between childhood neighborhood quality and the risk of cognitive dysfunction in Chinese middle-aged and elderly population: The moderation effect of body mass index. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. 2021;13(182).

Yu F, He B, Chen L, Wang F, Zhu H, Dong Y, Pan S*. Intermuscular Fat Content in Young Chinese Men With Newly Diagnosed Type 2 Diabetes: Based on MR mDIXON-Quant Quantitative Technique. Frontiers in Endocrinology. 2021;12:536018.

Chen H, Chen L, Hao G*. Sex difference in the association between solid fuel use and cognitive function in rural China. Environmental Research. 2021; 195: 110820.

Luo X, Zheng R*, Jin X, Sun Y, Chen L, Peng J, Huang X, Tian X, Mei L. Barriers to Adolescent Health Care in Maternal and Children's Healthcare Hospitals: Based on a National Survey in China. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2020;67(5, Supplement):S32-S7.

Reddy A, Halenda K, Cromer P, Chen L, Butler J, Raed A, Bhagatwala J, Sponseller T, Bollinger K, Zhu H, Young L, Layman D, Dong Y*. The Association of Intraocular Pressure with Obesity and Cardiometabolic Risk in a Young Farmworker Population. Journal of Glaucoma. 2021; 30(1):24-31.

Chen L, Zhu H, Su S, Harshfield G, Sullivan J, Webb C, Blumenthal J, Wang X, Huang Y, Treiber F, Kapuku G, Li W, Dong Y*. High-Mobility Group Box-1 is associated with Obesity, Inflammation and Subclinical Cardiovascular Risk among Young Adults: A Longitudinal Cohort Study. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 2020; 40(11):2776-2784.

Chen L, Zhu H, Harshfield G, Huang Y, Dong Y*. Association between Serum 25 Hydroxyvitamin D and the Effects of Angiotensin II Receptor Blocker on Renal Function among African Americans: A Post hoc Analysis of a Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Clinical Hypertension. 2020;22(10):1874-1883.

Chen L, He FJ, Dong Y, Huang Y, Wang C, Harshfield GA, Zhu H*. Modest Sodium Reduction Increases Circulating Short-Chain Fatty Acids in Untreated Hypertensives: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Hypertension. 2020;76:73–79.

Chen L, Zhu H, Harshfield GA, Treiber FA, Pollock JS, Pollock D, Okereke OI, Su S, Dong Y*. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations are associated with mental health and psychosocial stress in young adults. Nutrients. 2020;12(7):E1938.

Chen L, Wagner C, Dong Y, Wang X, Shary J, Huang Y, Hollis B, Zhu H*. Effects of Maternal Vitamin D3 Supplementation on Offspring Epigenetic Clock of Gestational Age at Birth: A Post-hoc Analysis of a Randomized Controlled Trial. Epigenetics. 2020:15(8):830-840.

Chen H*, Xiong P, Chen L, Hao G. Childhood neighborhood quality, friendship and risk of depressive symptoms in adults: The China Health and Retirement longitudinal Study. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2020;276:732-737.

Chen L, Dong Y, Chen J, Huang Y, Zhu H*. Epigenetics Predicts Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 Response to Vitamin D3 Supplementation in African Americans. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. 2020;64:e1900738.

Chen L, Zhu H, Gutin B, Sesso HD, Dong Y*. Higher Chocolate Intake is Associated with Longer Telomere Length among Adolescents. Pediatric Research. 2020;87:602-607.

Chen H, Chen L, Hao G*. Exercise attenuates the association between household pesticide exposure and depressive symptoms: evidence from NHANES, 2005-2014. Environmental Research. 2020;188:109760.

Chen L, Hao G*. Obesity and Cardiovascular Risk Management Is a Critical Way to Reduce Healthcare Resource Pressure. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. 2020;2047487320929248.

Chen L, Hao G*. The Role of Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 in Coronaviruses/Influenza Viruses and Cardiovascular Disease. Cardiovascular Research. 2020;116(12):1932-1936.

Chen L, Chen H, Dong S, ……, Hao G*. The effects of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine on ACE2 related coronavirus pathology and the cardiovascular system: An evidence based review. Function. 2020;1(2):zqaa012.

Chen L, Dong Y, Bhagatwala J, Raed A, Huang Y, Zhu H*. Vitamin D3 Supplementation Increases Long-Chain Ceramide Levels in Overweight/Obese African Americans: A Post-hoc Analysis of a Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients. 2020;12:E981.

Chen L, Zhu H, Gutin B, Dong Y*. Race, Gender, Family Structure, Socioeconomic Status, Dietary Patterns, and Cardiovascular Health in Adolescents. Current Developments in Nutrition. 2019;3:nzz117.

Chen L, He FJ, Dong Y, Huang Y, Harshfield GA, Zhu H*. Sodium Reduction, Metabolomic Profiling, and Cardiovascular Disease Risk in Untreated Black Hypertensives. Hypertension. 2019;74:194–200.

Dong Y, Chen L, Gutin B, Zhu H*. Total, Insoluble, and Soluble Dietary Fiber Intake and Insulin Resistance and Blood Pressure in Adolescents. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2019, 73(8):1172–1178.

Chen L, Dong Y, Bhagatwala J, Read A, Huang Y, Zhu H*. Effects of Vitamin D3 Supplementation on Epigenetic Aging in Overweight and Obese African Americans with Suboptimal Vitamin D Status: a Randomized Clinical Trial. Journals of Gerontology: Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences. 2019, 74(1):91-98.

Chen L, He FJ, Dong Y, Harshfield GA, Zhu H*. Sodium Reduction, miRNA Profiling and CVD Risk in Untreated Hypertensives: a Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Scientific Reports. 2018, 8(1):12729.

Chen L, Dong Y, Wang X, Hao G, Huang Y, Gutin B, Zhu H*. Epigenome-Wide Association Study of Dietary Fiber Intake in African American Adolescents. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. 2018;62(12):e1800155.

Xue R, Duan Z, Liu H, Chen L, Yu H, Ren M, Zhu Y, Jin C, Han T, Gao Z, Meng Q*. A Novel Dynamic Model for Predicting Outcome in Patients with Hepatitis B Virus Related Acute-on-Chronic Liver Failure. Oncotarget. 2017, 8(65):108970-108980.

Zhu D, Guo N, Wang J, Nicholas S, Chen L*. Socioeconomic Inequalities of Outpatient and Inpatient Service Utilization in China: Personal and Regional Perspectives. International Journal for Equity in Health. 2017;16:210.



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