Cuilin Zhang, M.D.,M.P.H.,Ph.D.

Senior Investigator

Epidemiology Branch


6710 Rockledge Dr. Wing B 3121


Research Topics

Determinants and Health Consequences of Diabetes and Obesity Based on a Life Course Approach

Dr. Zhang's research interest is at the interface of genetic and non-genetic biological markers and potentially modifiable exogenous factors, focusing on their interplay in relation to the development of complex diseases. More specifically, her current research activities focus primarily on the roles of genetic and environmental factors in the pathogenesis of gestational diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and obesity and health consequences of these complications. Dr. Zhang also has long-standing research interests in fetal origins of chronic diseases, life course epidemiology, and modifications of diet and lifestyle to improve reproductive outcomes and child health. Dr. Cuilin Zhang serves as the Principal Investigator of the Diabetes and Women’s Health Study, which is a retrospective cohort study of approximately 4,000 women from U.S. and Denmark who had diabetes in pregnancy and have been followed up for at least 10 years. These women will be prospectively followed up for an additional four years to collect updated information on major environmental factors and timed biospecimens. The study is focusing on the identification of determinants (medical, lifestyle, genetic and their interactions) for the progression from gestational diabetes to type 2 diabetes and its complications and the investigation of biochemical markers that may predict the development of these complications among the pre-diabetic population. Dr. Zhang is also the Principal Investigator of the investigation of the risk factors and pathogenesis of gestational diabetes using biospecimens longitudinally collected from prospective pregnancy cohorts. Currently, the study focuses on a comprehensive panel of biochemical markers and epigenetic markers that are putatively implicated in glucose homeostasis, fetal growth, or both. Non-targeted metabolomics will also be analyzed for the discovery of new pathways and/or biochemical markers related to glucose intolerance and subsequent adverse fetal outcomes. Dr. Zhang has published a number of papers and book chapters focusing on the determinants of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, type 2 diabetes and its complications, and obesity including genetic factors, diet and lifestyle factors, and biochemical markers.


Cuilin Zhang, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., is a tenure-track investigator who joined the Epidemiology Branch in 2007. Before coming to NICHD, Dr. Zhang was a research scientist at Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Zhang earned both her master of public health degree and Ph.D. in epidemiology from the University of Washington. She received her postdoctoral training in genetic and nutritional epidemiology at Harvard University.

Selected Publications

  1. Zhang C, Catalano P. Screening for Gestational Diabetes. JAMA. 2021;326(6):487-489.

  2. Li M, Hinkle SN, Grantz KL, Kim S, Grewal J, Grobman WA, Skupski DW, Newman RB, Chien EK, Sciscione A, Zork N, Wing DA, Nageotte M, Tekola-Ayele F, Louis GMB, Albert PS, Zhang C. Glycaemic status during pregnancy and longitudinal measures of fetal growth in a multi-racial US population: a prospective cohort study. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2020;8(4):292-300.

  3. Rawal S, Olsen SF, Grunnet LG, Ma RC, Hinkle SN, Granström C, Wu J, Yeung E, Mills JL, Zhu Y, Bao W, Ley SH, Hu FB, Damm P, Vaag A, Tsai MY, Zhang C. Gestational Diabetes Mellitus and Renal Function: A Prospective Study With 9- to 16-Year Follow-up After Pregnancy. Diabetes Care. 2018;41(7):1378-1384.

  4. Tobias DK, Stuart JJ, Li S, Chavarro J, Rimm EB, Rich-Edwards J, Hu FB, Manson JE, Zhang C. Association of History of Gestational Diabetes With Long-term Cardiovascular Disease Risk in a Large Prospective Cohort of US Women. JAMA Intern Med. 2017;177(12):1735-1742.

  5. Zhu Y, Olsen SF, Mendola P, Halldorsson TI, Rawal S, Hinkle SN, Yeung EH, Chavarro JE, Grunnet LG, Granström C, Bjerregaard AA, Hu FB, Zhang C. Maternal consumption of artificially sweetened beverages during pregnancy, and offspring growth through 7 years of age: a prospective cohort study. Int J Epidemiol. 2017;46(5):1499-1508.

This page was last updated on June 5th, 2020