Company: NIAAA, NIH
Job title: Chief, Laboratory of Liver Diseases
Dr. Gao received his M.D. from Wannan Medical College, China, in 1986 and his Ph.D. from Norman Bethune University of Medical Sciences, China, in 1991. Following postdoctoral training at NIAAA and in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the Medical College of Virginia (MCV), he served as a tenure track Assistant Professor at MCV from 1995 to 2000, where his research was supported by 3 NIH grants, and was in the process of being promoted to Associate Professor with tenure, when he accepted a tenure track position at NIAAA in 2000. Of exceptional note, he was granted NIH tenure through the Central Tenure Committee (CTC) in 2005 – a year early before his tenure track appointment was completed.
Since rejoining the NIAAA in 2000, Dr. Gao has established a highly productive liver research section. In recognition of his meritorious and outstanding contributions as a Physician-Scientist, in 2007 Dr. Gao was elected to the prestigious American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI) on his initial nomination. In the same year, he was also selected by NIH Director to become member of the Senior Biomedical Research Service (SBRS). In 2009, Dr. Gao was promoted to the Laboratory Chief of Liver Diseases at NIAAA.
In the past several years, Dr. Gao has been actively investigating the immunological aspects and molecular pathogenesis of liver diseases, focusing on the roles of cytokines and innate immunity in the progression of liver diseases. Dr. Gao has made major contributions in the following areas. (1) Dr. Gao’s group has discoved the critical functions of several hepatoprotective cytokines, including interleukin-6 and interleukin-22, and explored the therapeutic applications of these cytokines for the treatment of liver diseases. Interleukin-22 is currently being tested on clinical trials for the treatment of severe alcoholic hepatitis; (2) Dr. Gao’s lab has demonstrated for the first time that natural killer cells, which usually kill viral-infected or transformed cells, are also able to kill activated fibrotic cells, thereby controlling liver fibrosis. These results have affected our understanding of the control of liver fibrosis by providing new concepts of the interactions between the natural killer cells and the fibrotic cells, and provide new therapeutic targets to treat liver fibrosis. (3) Dr. Gao’s lab has recently established two simple models of chronic-plus-binge ethanol feeding (NIAAA/Gao-Binge model) and high-fat diet-plus-binge ethanol feeding, which induce significantly liver injury and inflammation, and mimic the pathogenesis of human alcoholic hepatitis. The use of this acute on chronic model is a major advance in the field, and has been replacing the previous chronic ethanol feeding model that has been used for 40 years.
Dr. Gao has published over 250 papers, including 160 peer-reviewed original articles in highly prestigious journals including the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Cell Metabolism, Gastroenterology, Hepatolology etc, and has been serving on the Editorial Board for Gastroenterology, Gut, Hepatology, Journal of Hepatology, American Journal of Physiology –GI and Liver etc. Dr. Gao has been invited to write Editorials and Reviews for many highly prestigious journals including Nature Medicine, Gastroenterology, Hepatology, Gut etc. Dr. Gao was also often invited to organize, chair, and speak in many major national and international conferences.