Hsian-Rong Tseng, Ph.D.

Hsian-Rong Tseng, Ph.D. 

Professor, Molecular and Medical Pharmacology


Hsian-Rong Tseng, Ph.D., seeks to develop nano-structured materials and microfluidic platforms to improve and advance the fields of molecular imaging, cancer biology and genetic medicine. Microfluidics, or lab-on-a-chip technology, is used to manipulate chemical and biological processes of tiny amounts of fluids at volumes a thousand times smaller than a teardrop. This microchip technology dramatically reduces the time and resources necessary to conduct experiments, and offers greater sensitivity in the detection and separation of molecules.

Nanoparticles have shown great promise as vehicles for the effective and safe delivery of gene therapies, which are treatments that add or replace missing or defective genes in patient cells. Tseng aims to create novel nanoparticles that could make gene therapy safer, faster and more cost-effective. To accomplish this goal, he and his collaborators designed a microchip that can produce and evaluate a library of nanoparticles for gene delivery by simply mixing molecular building blocks and genetic material. This microchip enables Tseng and his team to screen multiple nanoparticles at one time to find the formula that is most efficient at delivering genetic material to cells. The team is currently exploring the use of these nanoparticles for the delivery of small molecules that reprogram human cells to become induced pluripotent stem cells, which can become any cell type.

Tseng also engineers nanostructures to identify and capture rare cells circulating in the blood. He is currently focused on a technology to extract and analyze circulating tumor cells (CTCs) from the blood of cancer patients. CTCs break away from tumors and travel in the blood to start new tumors called metastases elsewhere in the body. Tseng created a device, called the NanoVelcro Chip, which is the size of a postage stamp and contains nanowires 1,000 times thinner than a human hair that can catch CTCs from patient blood samples. The chip is enhanced with a purification system that uses temperature fluctuations to release the CTCs from the wires so that they can be studied. When these cells are collected from a patient's blood, they can provide doctors with critical information about the cancer's type, characteristics and its potential progression. This information can then be used to develop a personalized treatment best suited to fight an individual patient's cancer.  

An additional area of interest for the Tseng lab is combining microfluidics with imaging platforms to improve cancer screening and diagnosis. He has developed a method to measure the activity of enzymes called protein kinases, which activate essential cell functions such as growth and survival and are known to play a role in many cancers. Because the device uses microfluidics, only a small tissue sample is needed, which opens up new avenues for experiments using patient blood, bone marrow, and needle biopsy samples. This technology could enable researchers to develop patient-tailored cancer treatments and to measure response to treatments in real time.

Tseng earned a doctorate degree in organic chemistry from National Taiwan University and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in supramolecular and physical chemistry at UCLA.


Honors & Affiliations



  • UCLA Crump Institute for Molecular Imaging
  • Cancer Molecular Imaging, UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center 
  • UCLA California NanoSystems Institute
  • UCLA Molecular Pharmacology Graduate Programs in Bioscience Home Area
  • UCLA Physics & Biology in Medicine Graduate Programs in Bioscience Home Area
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • Academy of Molecular Imaging
  • American Chemical Society
  • Material Research Society


Tseng's research is funded by the National Cancer Institute.