Agalliu Lab

Location and Contact Information

Agalliu Lab
Black Building, Room 3-310
650 West 168th Street
New York, NY 10032
United States

Principal Investigator

The Agalliu laboratory is investigating several fundamental issues in the biology of the mammalian blood-brain barrier (BBB):

  1. The mechanisms that govern the development and maintenance of the BBB
  2. How structural components of the BBB are affected in diseases of the brain and spinal cord where barrier function is impaired including stroke, MS and PANDAS
  3. The role of Wnt signaling in repairing the damaged BBB in CNS diseases



Lab Members

  • Kaitao Zhao

    • Lab Manager / Technician

    Kaitao Zhao graduated from Xiamen University with a B.S in Biological Science. He earned his M.S in Chemical Biology from Stevens Insititute of Technology. After graduation, he worked in the lab of Dr. Michael Shelanski at Columbia University, studying the role of ATF4 in memory and contributions of caspases to Alzheimer’s disease.

    In June 2022, Kaitao joined the Agalliu Lab, where he is currently focusing on regulation of endothelial cell responses to ischemic stroke.

    Project: Mechanisms of blood-brain barrier dysfunction in ischemic stroke

    Kaitao Zhao
  • Saptarshi Biswas

    • Associate Research Scientist

    Saptarshi earned his BS at Bangalore University, India, followed by an MS in biotechnology. He then moved to the U.S. in 2009 to earn his second MS in biotechnology in the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, during which he worked under Dr. Stephen J Small as a research assistant in Drosophila genetics.

    After that, Saptarshi started his doctoral work under Dr. William J Brunken, first at the SUNY Downstate Medical Center and then at the SUNY Upstate Medical University. During his doctoral training, he studied how extracellular matrix components, especially laminins, affect retinal angiogenesis either directly or indirectly, by modulating cross-talk between invading astrocytes and resident microglia.

    After earning his PhD in 2017, Saptarshi joined the Agalliu laboratory at Columbia University Irving Medical Center as a postdoctoral research scientist. His current work is primarily focused on the development and maintenance of the blood-retina barrier.

    Project: Cellular and molecular mechanisms of blood-retina barrier formation and maintenance

    Saptarshi Biswas
  • Ali Kurt, MD

    • Postdoctoral Research Scientist

    Ali Kurt earned his MD degree at Namık Kemal University, Turkey. When he was a medical student in 2017, he visited Dr. Agalliu Lab as a visiting student and worked on a multiple sclerosis study. After completing his 2 year compulsory service as a medical doctor in Turkey, he joined the lab as a Postdoctoral Research Scientist. His current studies focus on PANDAS, post-partum stroke, and long Covid effects on the human brain.

    Ali Kurt, MD
  • Uğur Akcan

    • Postdoctoral Research Scientist

    Uğur earned his BS in Biology at Marmara University, in Turkey. He then completed a Master’s degree in neuroscience at Istanbul University, where he studied immune system dysregulation in bipolar disorder.

    For his PhD in neuroscience, Uğur joined the lab of Prof. Mehmet Kaya at Koç University, investigating effects of histamine on the blood-brain barrier. His dissertation, completed in 2021, focused on identifying distinct roles of histamine receptor subtypes in effects on BBB permeability.

    In the Agalliu lab, which he joined as a postdoctoral research scientist in 2022, Uğur researches stem cell-derived BBB models.

    Project: Establishing stem cell-derived models of the blood-brain barrier

    Ugur Akcan
  • Connor Monahan

    • Graduate Student

    Connor is a graduate student in the Integrated Program in Cellular, Molecular and Biomedical Studies. Connor graduated from Boston College in 2019 with a B.S. in Biochemistry. At Boston College, he studied the developmental effects of microdeletions causing intellectual disability using the model system Xenopus laevis.

    Connor joined the Agalliu and Sulzer labs in August 2020 as a co-mentored PhD student. His current research project focuses on understanding the role of the immune response in the initiation and progression of Parkinson’s disease.

    Project: Role of T cells in Parkinson's disease pathophysiology

    Connor Monahan
  • Mary Claire Tuohy

    • Graduate Student

    Mary Claire is an MD/PhD student in the Neurobiology and Behavior Program. Mary Claire graduated from the University of Chicago in 2017 with a B.S in Biological Sciences and a specialization in Neuroscience. At UChicago she studied circadian regulation of the immune system in Dr. Brian Prendergast’s laboratory.

    Following graduation, Mary Claire studied the role of MOG-specific B cells in EAE under the mentorship of Dr. Naoto Kawakami. Mary Claire joined the Agalliu and Hillman labs in Sept 2020 as a co-mentored student. She is studying the neurovascular unit in acute ischemic stroke.

    Project: Mechanisms of blood-brain barrier dysfunction in ischemic stroke

    Mary Claire Tuohy
  • Aomeng Cui

    • Graduate Student

    Aomeng is an MD/PhD student in the Integrated Program in Cellular, Molecular and Biomedical Studies. She graduated from Columbia University in 2020 with a B.A. in Biochemistry and German Literature. During college, she worked in the lab of Dr. Michael E. Goldberg, studying visual processing within the lateral intraparietal cortex, and the lab of Dr. Wesley Grueber, studying sensory neuron development in Drosophila.

    Aomeng joined the lab of Dr. Dritan Agalliu in August 2022. She is interested in developing in vitro models of the blood brain barrier, to use in understanding the microenvironment of neuroinflammation.

    Project: Establishing stem cell-derived models of the blood-brain barrier

    Aomeng Cui
  • Alicia Russo

    • Undergraduate Researcher

    Alicia Russo is an undergraduate student in Barnard College studying Neuroscience & Behavior and Public Policy.

    She is interested in the molecular mechanisms underlying blood-brain barrier disruption and how its restoration influences the progression of neurological disease.

    Alicia joined the lab in 2021 and is currently working with Mary Claire studying the blood-brain barrier in ischemic stroke.

    Project: Mechanisms of blood-brain barrier dysfunction in ischemic stroke

    Alicia Russo