Tien S. Dong, MD, PhD

Key investigator

  • Tien S. Dong, MD, PhD

Precision health and the gut-liver axis

The Dong Laboratory is focused on the advancement of the clinical care of hepatology through translational research. In line with this goal, the lab conducts multidisciplinary studies at UCLA and at the West Los Angeles Veteran's Affair hospital in all aspects dealing with the gut-liver axis. The goal of the lab is to advance the understanding of the pathogenesis of obesity and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease while at the same time creating new platforms to advance the field of precision health.


Current research projects

  • Advancing precision health through the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithm in the field of hepatology
  • Understanding the interplay between the gut microbiome and adipocytes in the setting of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Using microbial biomarkers as a way to stratify HCC patients on immunotherapy  

Funding and support

  • NIH T32 Grant - Department of Veterans Affairs
  • GI Fellowship Seed Grant - UCLA Vatche & Tamar Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases

In the news

  • Medscape interviewed Dr. Dong on the link between liver injury and clotting disorders for COVID-19 patients.

Lab Members

Will Katzka

Will Katzka

Lab Manager

Will earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology at The University of Chicago. Following graduation, Will worked as a laboratory technician under Dr. Stephanie Dulawa for The University of Chicago and later the University of California, San Diego. His research, while in the Dulawa Lab, focused on epistatic modifiers of the BTBD3 gene and its role in obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Nicole Prause, PhD

Nicole Prause, PhD

Senior Statistician

Dr. Prause specializes in time series analysis, including biosignal processing and cognitive models. She will be working with Dr. Jihane N. Benhammou, Dr. Tien S. Dong and Dr. Arpan A. Patel on a number of clinical, translational and health services research projects in hepatology.


Publications (peer-reviewed) - Full list on PubMed

  1. Dong TS, Guan M, Mayer EA, Stains J, Liu C, Vora P, Jacobs JP, Lagishetty V, Chang L, Barry RL, Gupta A. Obesity is associated with a distinct brain-gut microbiome signature that connects prevotella and bacteroides to the brain’s reward centerGut Microbes, 2022. In press
  2. Hussain SK, Dong TS, Agopian V, Pisegna JR, Durazo FA, Enayati P, Sundaram V, Benhammou J, Noureddin M, Choi G, Ayoub W, Lagishetty V, Elashoff EM, Goodman MT, Jacobs JP. Dietary protein, fiber and coffee are associated with small intestine microbiome composition and diversity in patients with liver cirrhosis. In press. April 2020. Nutrients
  3. Dong TS, Mayer EA, Osadchiy V, Chang C, Katzka W, Lagishetty V, Gonzalez K, Kalani A, Stains J, Jacobs JP, Longo V, Gupta A. A distinct brain-gut-microbiome profile exists for females with obesity and food addiction. In press. Obesity
  4. Dong TS, Katzka W, Lagishetty V, Luu K, Hauer M, Pisegna J, Jacobs JP. A microbial signature identifies advanced fibrosis in patients with chronic liver disease mainly due to NAFLDSci Rep. 2020 Feb 17;10(1):2771. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-59535-w. PubMed PMID: 32066758; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC7026172
  5. Basak SK, Bera A, Yoon AJ, Morselli M, Jeong C, Tosevska A, Dong TS, Eklund M, Russ E, Nasser H, Lagishetty V, Guo R, Sajed D, Mudgal S, Mehta P, Avila L, Srivastava M, Faull K, Jacobs J, Pellegrini M, Shin DS, Srivatsan ES, Wang MB. A randomized, phase 1, placebo-controlled trial of APG-157 in oral cancer demonstrates systemic absorption and an inhibitory effect on cytokines and tumor-associated microbesCancer. 2020 Feb 5;. doi: 10.1002/cncr.32644. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 32022261
  6. Dong TS, Hui-Hua Chang, Meg Hauer, et al. Metformin Alters the Duodenal Microbiome and Decreases the Incidence of Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma Promoted by Diet-Induced ObesityAJP-GI. 2019 Sep 23. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.00170.2019
  7. Dong TS, Vu JP, Oh S, Sanford D, Pisegna JR, Germano P. Intraperitoneal Treatment of Kisspeptin Suppresses Appetite and Energy Expenditure and Alters Gastrointestinal Hormones in MiceDig Dis Sci. 2019 Nov 15;. doi: 10.1007/s10620-019-05950-7. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 31729619
  8. Hakimian J, Dong TS, et al. Dietary Supplementation with Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Reduces Opioid-Seeking Behaviors and Alters the Gut MicrobiomeNutrients. Aug 14;11(8). pii: E1900
  9. Dong TS, Jacobs J, Hussain S. Microbial Profiles of Cirrhosis in the Human Small IntestineCurrent Gastroenterology Reports. 2019 Aug 23;21(10):50
  10. Dong TS, Jacobs JP. Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and the Gut Microbiome: Are Bacteria Responsible for Fatty Liver? Exp Biol Med. 2019 Apr;244(6):408-418
  11. Dong TS, Kalani A, Aby E, et al. Machine Learning-Based Development and Validation of a Scoring System for Screening High-Risk Esophageal VaricesCGH. 2019 Jan 29. pii: S1542-3565(19)30072-2. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2019.01.025
  12. Dong TS, Gupta A. Influence of Early Life, Diet and the Environment on the MicrobiomeCGH. May 2018. DOI: 10.1016/j.cgh.2018.08.067
  13. Jacobs, J, Dong T, et al. Microbiome and Bile Acid Profiles in Duodenal Aspirates from Cirrhotics: The Microbiome, Microbial Markers and Liver Disease StudyHepatol Res. 2018 Jun 20. doi: 10.1111/hepr.13207
  14. Benhammou J, Dong T, et al. Race Affects SVR12 in a Large and Ethnically Diverse Hepatitis C Infected Patient Population Following Treatment with Direct Acting Antivirals: Analysis of a Single Center Department of Veterans Affairs CohortPharmacol Res Perspect. 2018 Feb 22;6(2):e00379
  15. Dong T, et al. Metabolic Syndrome Does Not Affect Sustained Virological Response of Direct-Acting Antivirals While Hepatitis C Clearance Improves Hemoglobin A1cWorld J Hepatol. 2018 Sep 27;10(9):612-621
  16. Dong T, et al. Rifaximin Decreases the Incidence and Severity of Acute Kidney Injury and Hepatorenal Syndrome in CirrhosisDig Dis Sci. 2016 Dec;61(12):3621-3626
  17. Hu S, Dong TS, Dalal SR, Wu F, Bissonnette M, et al. The Microbe-Derived Short Chain Fatty Acid Butyrate Targets miRNA-Dependent p21 Gene Expression in Human Colon CancerPLoS ONE. 2011. 6(1): e16221. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0016221 [Shared co-first authorship]

About Dr. Dong

Dr. Dong graduated with distinction from Stanford University with a BS in biological sciences. He subsequently received his MD from the University of Chicago. He completed his internal medicine residency at the University of Chicago, where he stayed on as faculty for an additional year as a liver hospitalist. While at the University of Chicago, he trained in the laboratory of Dr. Eugene Chang where he investigated the role of the gut microbiome on microRNAs and colon cancer. He then joined UCLA as a gastroenterology fellow in 2016 and continued his research training at UCLA through the Specialty Training and Advanced Research (STAR) program under the mentorship of Dr. Joseph Pisegna and Dr. Jonathan P. Jacobs. He finished his PhD in molecular, cellular and integrative physiology in 2020. Dr. Dong is board-certified in internal medicine and in gastroenterology.

Dr. Dong's research interest involves machine learning and how the intestinal microbiome influences the development of obesity, metabolic syndrome, chronic liver disease, cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. His clinical interests include cirrhosis, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, alcoholic liver disease, autoimmune hepatitis and other chronic liver diseases.