Gary Ian Gallicano


Associate Professor
Associate Professor Dept. of Biochemistry and Molecular & Cellular Biology Director, Transgenic Core facility


Biochemistry and Molecular and Cellular Biology


Stem cells, stem cells, stem cells!! They’re the main focus of the Gallicano laboratory. We use a number of methods and approaches including molecular (such as analyzing microRNAs and their role in development), ultrastructural, and biochemical tools to determine how pluripotent embryonic stem (ES) cells, multi-potent adult stem cells, and totipotent single cell mammalian embryos differentiate into all the cells of the body. The idea of stem cell based therapies is particularly prevalent in the fields of diabetes, cardiac and neurological disorders. These diseases are particularly good targets for stem cell therapies because the majority of the symptoms are associated with the loss of one specific cell type, e.g., the dopamine (DA) neuron for Parkinson’s disease (PD), or ?-islet cells for diabetes. While the potential use of ES cell derived terminally differentiated cells types as therapies is promising, there are several problems that must be addressed. These problems include formation of teratomas, grafting efficiency, differentiation capacity, incorporation into existing tissue (i.e., synapse formation for neurons or grafting potential of cardiomyocytes), and immunological response. However, substantial research and promise is growing using human adult stem cells derived from cord blood, bone marrow or the new induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS). Though it is currently believed that adult stem cells are not as flexible as ES cells, it might be possible to apply the knowledge gained from research on ES cells to trans-differentiate significantly more adult stem cells into embryonic-like cardiomyocytes for therapeutic use.

A secondary focus of my lab is cellular adhesion during early embryogenesis in mammals. We use three distinct biological disciplines, Confocal and Electron Microscopy, Molecular, and Biochemical analyses, all of which have begun to shed light on the importance of certain components involved with cellular adhesion in the embryo. One specific cell adhesion component we work on is desmoplakin, a major building block of junctions known as desmosomes. These junctions act like spot welds between cells, providing areas of tight and rigid adhesion between cells in tissues and organs that undergo a great deal of mechanical stress (e.g., heart, skin, early embryonic tissue, others). To study desmoplakin in detail we have used embryonic stem cell technology to "knock out" the desmoplakin gene in mice. Embryos that lack desmoplakin die about 6 days after fertilization because they fail to expand their egg cylinders (the main structure that houses the embryo in the uterus). The cells of the egg cylinder in desmoplakin null mice basically fall apart. Numerous other problems (e.g., decreased cellular proliferation) also are found in these early stage embryos lacking desmoplakin and we are currently trying to determine how the loss of desmoplakin causes these problems during development.

embryonic stem cells
transgenic mice