Dritan Agalliu, PhD

Dritan Agalliu, PhD

Research Interest

Research in my laboratory is focused on understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate formation of the blood-brain barrier in the central nervous system ( CNS) and the mechanisms of barrier breakdown in a variety of CNS diseases such as stroke and autoimmune diseases having symptoms that include blood-brain barrier failure, using a variety of genetic, molecular, cellular and imaging approaches. We have developed novel mouse strains that allow us to visualize changes in structural components of the blood-brain barrier, namely tight junctions and caveolae, in living animals for several CNS diseases (e.g. stroke and multiple sclerosis) in order to understand the cellular mechanisms underlying barrier impairment in these neurological disorders. In addition, we are investigating the role of Wnt/β-catenin signaling in development of the CNS vasculature and formation of the blood-brain barrier, and we are exploring the role of this pathway in repairing the barrier in diseases where its function is compromised (e.g. stroke and autoimmune disorders). Finally, we are investigating the mechanisms of immune cells entry into the CNS in a novel animal model for a neuropsychiatric disorder caused by multiple Streptococcus pyogenes infections, in order to understand how immune cells induce neurovascular, synaptic and behavioral deficits in the brain

  • PhD, 2006 Genetics and Development, Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, NY
  • Internship: 2011 Stanford University School of Medicine

July 2011 - June 2015         Assistant Professor. Department of Developmental and Cell Biology, University of California, Irvine.

August 2006 - June 2011    Postdoctoral Scholar, Department of Neurobiology, Stanford University School of Medicine.


Nov. 2016    Weill Cornell School of Medicine, 2016 - 2017 Ralph L. Nachman Vascular and Cancer Biology Seminar Series - The role of Wnt signaling in development and repair of the blood-brain barrier.” New York, NY, USA.

Sept. 2014    Columbia University Medical Center, Department of Neurology and Pharmacology, "Elucidating the mechanisms of blood-brain barrier impairment in stroke and multiple sclerosis".

April 2014    Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center "Elucidating the mechanisms of blood-brain barrier impairment in diseases of the nervous system".

Mar. 2014    Columbia University Medical Center, Department of Pathology and Cell Biology, "Elucidating the mechanisms of blood-brain barrier impairment in diseases of the nervous system"


April 2017    Washington University School of Medicine, Hope Center, Blood Brain Barrier Mini Series - The role of Wnt signaling in development and repair of the blood-brain barrier.” St. Loius, MO, USA.

Jan. 2017      GRC meeting “Neuroimmune Communications in Health and Disease, 2017. Session: Immunity and Neurodegeneration. “The role of immune cells in movement and neuropsychiatric disorders – lessons from animal models.” Ventura, CA. USA

Dec. 2016     American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 55th annual meeting. How animal models inform potential therapies for immune dyfunction in OCD.” Hollywood, FL, USA.

Sept. 2016    Neurocritical Care Society Annual Meeting, 2016. Session: “Translational Science”. “Blood-Brain Barrier and Ischemic Stroke: Lessons from Animal Models”. National Harbor, MD. USA.

July 2016     International OCD Foundation Conference, 2016. Session: “PANDAS/PANS – From Bedside to Bench and Back”. “Cell-mediated mechanisms of autoimmunity in an animal model for PANDAS.” Chicago, IL. USA.

Mar. 2016    University of Michigan, Department of Pathology. “Blood-Brain Barrier and Multiple Sclerosis: Two Tales of Breakdown and Repair”. Invited Seminar, Ann Arbor, MI.

Mar. 2016    Yale University, Department of Psychiatry. “A Neurovascular Link Between Infection, Autoimmunity and Behavior”. Invited Seminar, New Haven, CT.

Mar. 2016    University of Utah, Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology. “Blood-Brain Barrier and Multiple Sclerosis: Two Tales of Breakdown and Repair”. Invited Seminar, Salt Lake City, UT.

Feb. 2016     International Stroke Conference, 2016. Session: New Insights and Therapeutic Targeting of the Blood Brain Barrier in Ischemic Stroke. “Rab7 regulates endothelial tight junction protein trafficking and paracellular permeability of the blood-brain barrier after ischemic stroke.” Los Angeles, CA. USA.

Oct. 2015     Society for Neuroscience Meeting 2015. Session: Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Ischemia. “Rab7 regulates endothelial tight junction protein trafficking and paracellular permeability of the blood-brain barrier after ischemic stroke.” Chicago, IL. USA.

Mar. 2015    UCSF, Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disorders, Neurovascular and Immuno-Imaging Symposium. “Elucidating cell biological mechanisms of blood-brain barrier breakdown in CNS diseases.” San Francisco, CA.

Oct. 2014     UCLA Integrative Center For Neural Repair Symposium. " Elucidating the Mechanisms of Blood-Brain Barrier Breakdown in Diseases of the Central Nervous System" Los Angeles, CA.

Dec. 2013     International Symposium on Neural Regeneration “Th17 cell-mediated  CNS damage  and  blood-brain barrier impairment in response to Streptococcus pyogenes  intranasal infection in a mouse model for PANS” Asilomar, CA, USA.

Nov. 2013    NE PANDAS Parent Association Conference. "Elucidating mechanisms of immune cell entry into the brain and blood-brain barrier damage in an animal model of recurrent intranasal Strep infections" Providence, RI, USA.

Sept 2013     University of Michigan, Neuroimmunology Symposium “Early Events in Lesion Formation in MS” “Mechanisms of Blood-Brain Barrier Impairment in Autoimmune Diseases of the CNS”, Ann Arbor, MI.

Feb 2013      UCI School of School of Medicine, Department of Biological Chemistry, Departmental Seminar. "Imaging Dynamic Structural and Functional Changes of the Blood-Brain Barrier in CNS Diseases".

Feb 2013      UCI MIND Seminar. "Imaging Dynamic Structural and Functional Changes of the Blood-Brain Barrier in CNS Diseases".

Sept. 2012    Autoimmune Diseases of the Nervous System/PANDAS "Imaging Dynamic Structural and Functional Changes of the Blood-Brain Barrier in CNS Diseases," Allergan Foundation, UCI School of Biological Sciences, School of Medicine, Office of Research, Irvine, CA, USA.

April 2012    UCI Multiple Sclerosis Symposium, "Imaging Dynamic Structural and Functional Changes in the Blood-Brain Barrier in Health and Disease," UCI, Irvine, CA.

April 2012    UCI Neurology Grand Rounds, "Imaging Dynamic Structural and Functional Changes at the Blood-Brain Barrier in Health and Disease," UCI School of Medicine, Department of Neurology, Orange, CA, USA.

Feb. 2012     UCLA Embryology Club; JCCC Cancer and Stem Cell Biology Program Area "Understanding the Molecular Mechanisms of Blood-Brain Barrier Formation and Breakdown in the Central Nervous System," University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA.

Oct. 2011     UCI Stem Cell Symposium, "Molecular mechanisms that regulate the interactions between neural stem cells, progenitors and blood vessels in the central nervous system," UCI, Irvine, CA, USA.


      Nov. 2016    Festival of Science: Session “La salute del cervello tra batteri e virus”. A neurovascular link between infection, autoimmunity and behavior.” Genova, Italy.

     Nov. 2016    Instituto Gianina Gaslini, Children’s Hospital – A neurovascular link between infection, autoimmunity and behavior.” Genova, Italy.

     Sept. 2015    European 2015 PANDAS Conference. “The role of Th17 cells in Blood-Brain Barrier Destruction and Neuropathology in An Animal Model for PANDAS.” Como, Italy.

     July 2015        11th International Conference on Cerebral Vascular Biology. “Transcellular and Paracellular Pathways of Blood-Brain Barrier Breakdown in Stroke Pathology.” Paris, France.

Course Instructor for Lectures  “Secretory Pathway I and II”. Course: Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology II.

Course Instructor for Lectures: “Vascular Development”. Course: Principles of Developmental Biology.

Course Instructor for the Lecture: “Scientific Misconduct”. Course: Responsible Conduct of Research.

Course Instructor for the Lecture: “Mechanisms of Blood-Brain Barrier Dysfunction in Neurological Disorders". Course: Biology of Neurologic and Psychiatric Disorders

Society for Neuroscience


North American Vascular Biology Organization (NAVBO)

International Brain Barriers Society

American Heart Association

  • Dynamic Imaging of the CNS Vasculature 
  • CNS and Retina Vascular Biology 
  • Blood-Brain Barrier Biology 
  • Neuroimmunology 

2016                   The 2016 Scientific Research Innovator from PANDAS Network.

2006                   Doctoral dissertation with distinction in Genetics and Development, Columbia University.

1998                   B.S. with Cumma Sum Laude in Genetics and Cell Biology, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. 

  • Tyler Cutforth, Associate Research Scientist
  • Azzurra Cottarelli, Postdoctoral Scholar
  • Maryann Platt, Graduate Research Assistant
  • Charlotte Wayne, Graduate Research Assistant
  • Nicole Ampatey, Technician A
  • Claudiu Diaconu, Neurology Fellow
  • Jason Neil, Neurology Resident
  • Sarah Chaudry, Undergraduate Student

Lim, R.G., Quan, C., Reyes-Ortiz, A.M., Lutz, S.E., Kedaigle, A.J., Gipson, T.A., Wu, J., Vatine, G.D., Stocksdale, J., Casale, M.S., Svendsen C.N., Fraenkel, E., Housman, D.E, Agalliu, D.* and Thompson L.M.* (2017). Huntington’s disease iPSC-Derived brain microvascular endothelial cells reveal Wnt-mediated angiogenic and blood-brain barrier deficits. Cell Reports 19: 1365-1377. *equal senior authorship.

Platt M., Agalliu D. and Cutforth T (2017). Hello from the other side: How autoantibodies circumvent the blood-brain barrier in autoimmune encephalitis. Frontiers in Immunology https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2017.00442.

Lengfeld J, Lutz S.E, Smith J.R, Diaconu C.D, Cameron S, Koffman S, Agalliu I, Walsh C and Agalliu D (2017). Endothelial Wnt/beta-catenin signaling reduces immune cell infiltration in multiple sclerosis. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1609905114.

Paul D, Baena V, Ge S, Jiang X, Jellison ER, Kiprono T, Agalliu D, Pachter JS (2016). Appearance of Claudin-5+leukocytes in the central nervous system during neuroinflammation: a novel role for endothelial-derived extracellular vesicles. J. Neuroinflammation: 13(1): 292.

Cutforth T., DeMille MMC., Agalliu I. and Agalliu D. (2016). CNS autoimmune disease after Streptococcus pyogenes infections: animal models, cellular mechanisms and genetic factors. Future Neurology: 10.2217/fnl.16.4.

Dileepan T, Smith ED, Knowland D, Hsu M, Platt M, Eddy-Bittner P, Cohen B, Southern P, Latimer E, Harley E,Agalliu D* & Cleary PP* (2016). Group A streptococcus intranasal infection promotes CNS infiltration by streptococcal-specific Th17 cells. Journal of Clinical Investigation 126: 303-317. *equal authorship

Akassoglou K, Agalliu D, Chang CJ, Davalos D, Grutzendler J, Hillman EM, Khakh BS, Kleinfeld D, McGavern DB, Nelson SJ, Zlokovic BV (2016). Neurovascular and Immuno-Imaging: From Mechanisms to Therapies. Proceedings of the Inaugural Symposium. Frontiers in Neuroscience 46: doi: 10.3389/fnins.2016.00046.

Mazzoni J., Cutforth T., and Agalliu D. (2015). Dissecting the role of smooth muscle cells versus pericytes in regulating cerebral blood flow using in vivo optical imaging. Neuron 87: 4-6. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2015.06.024

Kurimoto S, Jung J, Tapadia M, Lengfeld J, Agalliu D, Waterman M, Mozaffar T, Gupta R. (2015). Activation of the Wnt/beta-catenin signaling cascade after traumatic nerve injury. Neuroscience 294:101-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2015.02.049.

Lengfeld J, Cutforth T, Agalliu D. (2014). The role of angiogenesis in the pathology of multiple sclerosis. Vascular Cell 28;6(1):23. doi: 10.1186/s13221-014-0023-6. eCollection 2014.

Knowland D., Arac A., Sekiguchi K.J., Hsu M., Lutz S.E., Perrino J., Steinberg G.K., Barres B.A., Nimmerjahn A., and Agalliu D (2014). Stepwise recruitment of transcellular and paracellular pathways underlies blood-brain barrier breakdown in stroke. Neuron 82: 603-617.

Lutz S.E., Lengfeld J., and Agalliu D (2014). Stem cell-based therapies for multiple sclerosis: recent advances in animal models and human clinical trials. Regenerative Medicine 9 (2): 129-132.

Liu L, Eckert MA, Riazifar H, Kang DK, Agalliu D, Zhao W (2013). From blood to the brain: can systemically transplanted mesenchymal stem cells cross the blood-brain barrier? Stem Cells Int. 2013;2013:435093. doi: 10.1155/2013/435093. Epub 2013 Aug 12.

Liu S, Agalliu D, Yu C, Fisher M (2012). The role of pericytes in blood-brain barrier function and stroke. Current Pharmaceutical Design 18: 3653-62.

Shimomura Y*, Agalliu D*, Vonica A*, Luria V*, Wajid M, Baumer A, Belli S, Petukhova L, Schinzel A, Brivanlou AH, Barres BA and Christiano AM (2010). APCDD1 is a novel Wnt inhibitor mutated in hereditary hypotrichosis simplex. Nature 464: 1043-1047.

Daneman R, Rumah KR, Zhou L, Agalliu D, Cahoy JD, Kaushal A and Barres BA (2010). The mouse blood-brain barrier transcriptome: a new resource for understanding the development and function of brain endothelial cells. PLoS One 5: e13741.

Daneman R, Agalliu D, Zhou L, Kuhnert F, Kuo CJ and Barres BA (2009). Wnt/beta-catenin signaling is required for CNS, but not non-CNS, angiogenesis. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 106: 641-646.

Emery B, Agalliu D, Cahoy JD, Watkins TA, Dugas JC, Mulinyawe SB, Ibrahim A, Ligon KL, Rowitch DH and Barres BA (2009). Identification of myelin-gene regulatory factor as a critical transcriptional regulator required for CNS myelination. Cell 138: 172-85.

Agalliu D, Takada S, Agalliu I, McMahon AP and Jessell TM (2009). Motor neurons with axial muscle projections specified by Wnt4/5 signaling. Neuron 61: 708-720.

Agalliu D and Schieren I (2009). Heterogeneity in the developmental potential of motor neuron progenitors revealed by clonal analysis of single cells in vitro. Neural Development 4: 2.

Masckauchan, NTH, Agalliu D, Vorontchikhina M, Ahn A, Parmalee NL, Li C, Khoo A, Tycko B, Brown AM and Kitajewski J (2006). Wnt5a signaling induces proliferation and survival of endothelial cells and expression of MMP-1 and Tie-2. Molecular Biology of the Cell 17: 5163-72.

Lieberam I*, Agalliu D*, Nagasawa T, Ericson J and Jessell TM (2005). A Cxcl12-Cxcr4 chemokine signaling pathway defines the initial trajectory of mammalian motor axons. Neuron 47: 667-679. *equal authorship

For a complete list of publications, please visit PubMed.gov