profile photo of wanhe li
Wanhe Li

Assistant Professor
CPRIT Scholar in Cancer Research

Li Lab Website

Fax: 979-845-2891




308 BSBW



Joined the Department in 2022

  • B.S., Biological Sciences, Nankai University. 2004
  • Ph.D., Molecular and Cellular Biology, Stony Brook University. 2011 (Joint program with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory)
  • Postdoctoral Associate & Research Associate,The Rockefeller University.


  • Genetics Society of America
  • Society for Research on Biological Rhythms
  • International Behavioural and Neural Genetics Society

Chronic social isolation and loneliness have profound impacts on public health. Though experimental manipulations have been widely applied to studying sleep/wakefulness and circadian regulation in animal models, how normal sleep is perturbed by social isolation and chronic stress is largely unknown. We previously reported that chronically isolated animals exhibit sleep-loss accompanied by overconsumption of food. The observed behavioral changes induced by chronic social isolation stress is linked to neural activities in specific neural circuits in the Drosophila brain. These results resonate with anecdotal findings of loneliness-associated sleep difficulties and hyperphagia in humans, and present a mechanistic link between chronic social isolation, metabolism, and sleep, addressing a long-standing call for animal models focused on loneliness. Future work built upon this model will help us understand the perception of social isolation and other emotional states, the regulation of sleep/wakefulness, and the regulation of metabolism at the intersection of genetics, biological timing, and neurobiology. Furthermore, we seek to apply these findings in stress neurobiology to the field of chronic diseases, and ultimately to establish a genetically tractable model to study the reciprocal relationship between chronic stress and the progression of chronic illness, such as cancer. We are supported by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) for developing this new and exciting direction of research.

  1. Wang, SS, Lu, AX, Li, WH, Zhang, H, Hu, CP, Liu, JX et al.. Effects of food-borne cholesterol supplementation on lead-induced neurodevelopmental impairments of rats based on BDNF signaling pathway and cholesterol metabolism. Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. 2023;259 :115026. doi: 10.1016/j.ecoenv.2023.115026. PubMed PMID:37210997 .
  2. Chen, S, Sun, Z, Li, W, Yu, P, Shi, Q, Kong, F et al.. Digital Magnetic Detection of Biomolecular Interactions with Single Nanoparticles. Nano Lett. 2023;23 (7):2636-2643. doi: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.2c04961. PubMed PMID:36971403 PubMed Central PMC10103294.
  3. Wang, Z, Lincoln, S, Nguyen, AD, Li, W, Young, MW. Chronic sleep loss disrupts rhythmic gene expression in Drosophila. Front Physiol. 2022;13 :1048751. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2022.1048751. PubMed PMID:36467698 PubMed Central PMC9716074.
  4. Wang, SS, Xu, X, Lu, AX, Li, WH, Liu, JX, Liu, C et al.. Amelioration of cholesterol sulfate for lead-induced CTX cell apoptosis based on BDNF signaling pathway mediated cholesterol metabolism. Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. 2022;248 :114307. doi: 10.1016/j.ecoenv.2022.114307. PubMed PMID:36423370 .
  5. Li, W, Keene, AC. Flies sense the world while sleeping. Nature. 2021;598 (7881):423-424. doi: 10.1038/d41586-021-02441-6. PubMed PMID:34588643 .
  6. Li, W, Wang, Z, Syed, S, Lyu, C, Lincoln, S, O'Neil, J et al.. Chronic social isolation signals starvation and reduces sleep in Drosophila. Nature. 2021;597 (7875):239-244. doi: 10.1038/s41586-021-03837-0. PubMed PMID:34408325 PubMed Central PMC8429171.
  7. Ahmad, M, Li, W, Top, D. Integration of Circadian Clock Information in the Drosophila Circadian Neuronal Network. J Biol Rhythms. 2021;36 (3):203-220. doi: 10.1177/0748730421993953. PubMed PMID:33641476 PubMed Central PMC8114447.
  8. Garaulet, DL, Sun, K, Li, W, Wen, J, Panzarino, AM, O'Neil, JL et al.. miR-124 Regulates Diverse Aspects of Rhythmic Behavior in Drosophila. J Neurosci. 2016;36 (12):3414-21. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3287-15.2016. PubMed PMID:27013671 PubMed Central PMC4804003.
  9. Shuai, Y, Hirokawa, A, Ai, Y, Zhang, M, Li, W, Zhong, Y et al.. Dissecting neural pathways for forgetting in Drosophila olfactory aversive memory. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015;112 (48):E6663-72. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1512792112. PubMed PMID:26627257 PubMed Central PMC4672816.
  10. Campbell, RA, Honegger, KS, Qin, H, Li, W, Demir, E, Turner, GC et al.. Imaging a population code for odor identity in the Drosophila mushroom body. J Neurosci. 2013;33 (25):10568-81. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0682-12.2013. PubMed PMID:23785169 PubMed Central PMC3685844.
Search PubMed