Dr. Zaha is originally from Romania, where he received his initial medical training at Carol Davila University. From there Dr. Zaha went on to conduct research studies of myocardial cell biology investigating insulin signaling and glucose transport mechanisms in the heart and obtained a Ph.D. degree summa cum laude at the University of Freiburg in Germany. He next completed a postdoctoral fellowship in molecular biology and genetics at the University of Utah, conducting studies to elucidate molecular and genetic connections that underlie the energetic metabolism in the heart, funded by a fellowship award from the American Heart Association. Dr. Zaha conducted studies of molecular mechanisms for protection of myocardial mitochondria and was recognized as a finalist at the 2014 Northwestern Young Investigator Forum.

Dr. Zaha completed his internal medicine residency at Indiana University and cardiology fellowship at Yale and University College London, specializing clinically in onco-cardiology and advanced cardiovascular imaging.

Dr. Zaha joined the cardiology faculty at UT Southwestern in January 2016, where he is currently Assistant Professor in a clinical scholar position that aims to interface basic and clinical science. Dr. Zaha brings a unique combination of interests and expertise in fundamental scientific methods, biological imaging tools and patient-centered clinical cardiac care. Dr. Zaha reopened dedicated onco-cardiology clinics at UT Southwestern and is actively involved in the clinical imaging labs. Dr. Zaha aims to develop noninvasive, nonradioactive biochemical imaging of the human heart metabolism for early detection and a better understanding of myocardial disease in the Advanced Imaging Research Center (AIRC) at UT Southwestern.

Dr. Zaha’s interests beyond science and medicine include his family, friends, outdoor sports and the exploration of nature and the arts.


Medical School
Carol Davila University of Medicine & Pharmacy (1999)
Other Post Graduate Training
University of Freiburg, Germany (2003)
Research Fellowship
University of UTAH (2006), Molecular Genetics
Indiana University School of Medicine (2007), Internal Medicine
Indiana University School of Medicine (2009), Internal Medicine
Yale New Haven Medical Center (2015), Cardiovascular Medicine

Research Interest

  • Mitochondrial Biology
  • Molecular Imaging
  • Myocardial Protection


Featured Publications LegendFeatured Publications

AMPK is critical for mitochondrial function during reperfusion after myocardial ischemia.
Zaha VG, Qi D, Su KN, Palmeri M, Lee HY, Hu X, Wu X, Shulman GI, Rabinovitch PS, Russell RR, Young LH J. Mol. Cell. Cardiol. 2015 Dec 91 104-113
AMP-activated protein kinase regulation and biological actions in the heart.
Zaha VG, Young LH Circ. Res. 2012 Aug 111 6 800-14
PGC-1ß deficiency accelerates the transition to heart failure in pressure overload hypertrophy.
Riehle C, Wende AR, Zaha VG, Pires KM, Wayment B, Olsen C, Bugger H, Buchanan J, Wang X, Moreira AB, Doenst T, Medina-Gomez G, Litwin SE, Lelliott CJ, Vidal-Puig A, Abel ED Circ. Res. 2011 Sep 109 7 783-93
A small molecule AMPK activator protects the heart against ischemia-reperfusion injury.
Kim AS, Miller EJ, Wright TM, Li J, Qi D, Atsina K, Zaha V, Sakamoto K, Young LH J. Mol. Cell. Cardiol. 2011 Jul 51 1 24-32
Contribution of impaired myocardial insulin signaling to mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress in the heart.
Boudina S, Bugger H, Sena S, O'Neill BT, Zaha VG, Ilkun O, Wright JJ, Mazumder PK, Palfreyman E, Tidwell TJ, Theobald H, Khalimonchuk O, Wayment B, Sheng X, Rodnick KJ, Centini R, Chen D, Litwin SE, Weimer BE, Abel ED Circulation 2009 Mar 119 9 1272-83
Type 1 diabetic akita mouse hearts are insulin sensitive but manifest structurally abnormal mitochondria that remain coupled despite increased uncoupling protein 3.
Bugger H, Boudina S, Hu XX, Tuinei J, Zaha VG, Theobald HA, Yun UJ, McQueen AP, Wayment B, Litwin SE, Abel ED Diabetes 2008 Nov 57 11 2924-32
A conserved role for phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase but not Akt signaling in mitochondrial adaptations that accompany physiological cardiac hypertrophy.
O'Neill BT, Kim J, Wende AR, Theobald HA, Tuinei J, Buchanan J, Guo A, Zaha VG, Davis DK, Schell JC, Boudina S, Wayment B, Litwin SE, Shioi T, Izumo S, Birnbaum MJ, Abel ED Cell Metab. 2007 Oct 6 4 294-306
Mitochondrial energetics in the heart in obesity-related diabetes: direct evidence for increased uncoupled respiration and activation of uncoupling proteins.
Boudina S, Sena S, Theobald H, Sheng X, Wright JJ, Hu XX, Aziz S, Johnson JI, Bugger H, Zaha VG, Abel ED Diabetes 2007 Oct 56 10 2457-66
Ablation of PGC-1beta results in defective mitochondrial activity, thermogenesis, hepatic function, and cardiac performance.
Lelliott CJ, Medina-Gomez G, Petrovic N, Kis A, Feldmann HM, Bjursell M, Parker N, Curtis K, Campbell M, Hu P, Zhang D, Litwin SE, Zaha VG, Fountain KT, Boudina S, Jimenez-Linan M, Blount M, Lopez M, Meirhaeghe A, Bohlooly-Y M, Storlien L, Strömstedt M, Snaith M, Oresic M, Abel ED, Cannon B, Vidal-Puig A PLoS Biol. 2006 Nov 4 11 e369
Mouse and human resistins impair glucose transport in primary mouse cardiomyocytes, and oligomerization is required for this biological action.
Graveleau C, Zaha VG, Mohajer A, Banerjee RR, Dudley-Rucker N, Steppan CM, Rajala MW, Scherer PE, Ahima RS, Lazar MA, Abel ED J. Biol. Chem. 2005 Sep 280 36 31679-85

Honors & Awards

  • Finalist
    Northwestern University Young Investigator Forum (2014)
  • High Score Abstract
    Euro-Imaging, Vienna, Austria (2014)
  • Fellowship Award
    American Heart Association (2005-2006)
  • Fellowship Award
    State of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany (2000-2002)
  • Research Stipend
    Hoffman La Roche, Germany (2000)
  • Scholarship
    TEMPUS, European Union (1998)

Professional Associations/Affiliations

  • American Society for Echocardiography (2015)
  • American Society of Nuclear Cardiology (2015)
  • International Society for Magnetic Resonance (2015)
  • European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging (2014)
  • Society for Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance (2014)
  • American College of Cardiology (2011)
  • American Heart Association (2011)