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About Gallo Lab

Meet Dr. Gallo

Dr. Gallo is one of the highest cited active investigators in Medicine, with over 40,000 citations from more than 350 publications in prestigious journals including: Nature, Science, New England J. of Medicine, Immunity, Cell Host and Microbe and others.

Dr. Richard Gallo portrait

Richard L. Gallo, M.D., Ph.D.

Irma Gigli Distinguished Professor
Chairman, Department of Dermatology
rgallo@ucsd.edu
PubMed References (NCBI)
Research Profile


Gallo Lab Research

Our research is focused on fundamental basic science and clinical trial approaches towards understanding how the skin defends the body against infections and the environment. We apply modern techniques of biochemistry, immunology, microbiology, and genetics to model complex biological systems that study how the microbiome interacts with mammalian cells.  Our goal is to translate this information into improved diagnostics and therapeutics to better understand and treat human disease.

Antimicrobial Defense

Our laboratory is interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms of epithelial defense. Critical discoveries from our group include finding that the skin makes natural antibiotic molecules known as Cathelicidins, and more recent discoveries that have defined several critical functions of bacteria that inhabit the skin. Cathelicidins are cationic and amphipathic molecules that inhibit microbial function by targeting microbial membranes. Cathelicidins also stimulate cellular immune defense.

Gene targeting and molecular analysis by our laboratory has shown cathelicidins are critical to mammalian immunity and can contribute to human diseases such as acne, rosacea and psoriasis. A direct extension of our work on antimicrobials is our work on the microbiome, cells that have avoided killing by the antimicrobial defense system. We have shown how the normal community of bacteria on human skin contains strain-specific functions that help limit skin inflammation and protect against infection.

We are conducting precise molecular characterization of these events and translating this information into human skin therapies. Numerous questions remain in this field and are the subject of ongoing work.

The Skin Microbiome 

We are leaders in understanding the functions of microbes that normally inhabit human skin. This vast collection of organisms has been termed the “Microbiome” and has been shown by our group to be essential for human health. A key aspect of our work is that we seek to specifically understand the chemical and molecular products, and the receptors involved, that permit the skin microbiome to promote health. This work has led to successful human clinical trials that is pioneering methods to treat inflammatory skin diseases without the use of immunosuppressive drugs.

Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs)

A related interest of our group is the function of tissue Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). These linear carbohydrate molecules act as immune signaling molecules and co-factors in wound repair. Important growth factors such as FGF-2 and FGF-7 require the GAG Dermatan sulfate in order of bind and activate their signaling receptor. Another GAG, Hyaluronic acid has been observed to be a signal of skin injury, alerting the immune system of danger by activation of pattern recognition receptor TLR-4.