Gordana D. Vitaliano, MD, PhD
Director, Brain Imaging Nanotechnology Group
- Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
Gordana D. Vitaliano, MD, PhD, is the director of the Brain Imaging Nanotechnology Group, a psychiatrist in the Behavioral Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory, and the medical director of the Developmental Biopsychiatry Research Program at McLean Hospital. Dr. Vitaliano’s research is focused on designing nanotechnology, biomolecular nanorobots, nanolasers, biosensors, molecular imaging tools, and drug delivery systems that can efficiently cross the blood-brain barrier, and diagnose and treat neuropsychiatric disorders better than existing biotechnologies. Her clinical and research work has led to grant funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute of Mental Health, NARSAD, the Sidney R. Baer Jr. and Taplin Foundations, and four issued and 12 pending patents.
Dr. Vitaliano served as an expert in nanomedicine on the President’s Innovation and Technology Advisory Committee (The White House), has contributed to the Dutch Committee, NIH review panels, and has been an invited speaker at NIDA, ACNP, NARSAD, NSF, IBM, and DOD conferences.
For 20 years, Dr. Vitaliano has been researching methods for delivering drugs that can effectively treat neuropsychiatric diseases. Through her work, she attempts to develop methods for addressing a major obstacle in the treatment of psychiatric conditions—the “blood-brain barrier” that prevents drugs from being delivered directly to the brain.
To cross this barrier, Dr. Vitaliano and her colleagues focus on the creation of nanotechnology, biomolecular nanorobots, nanolasers, biosensors, molecular imaging tools, and drug delivery systems.
Dr. Vitaliano’s research career began in the in the early 2000s in the private sector. She was the founding CSO of ExQor Technologies Inc. There, she led a multidisciplinary team that worked to design intelligent nanoscale biosensors, biomolecular nanorobots, nanolasers, molecular imaging tools, and drug delivery systems. Some of the technologies she helped develop at ExQor Technologies were licensed by McLean Hospital. This relationship led her to come to McLean in 2006, where she has continued her research efforts.
At McLean, Dr. Vitaliano’s research has focused on neurodegenerative disorders and neurotoxic diseases in the brain such as HIV with substance use, HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder (HAND), and Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
This research is aimed at the development of nanotechnologies that deliver growth factors to the brain for the purpose of regenerating all or parts of the brain. Her research combines neuropathological, molecular, cellular, biochemical, MRI/MRS imaging, and behavioral methods.
Dr. Vitaliano’s work also involves preclinical testing of bio-nanoparticles (NPs) that effectively deliver brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) to the brain and promote neurorestoration and cognitive stabilization in mouse models of AD and HAND.
Through her research, Dr. Vitaliano has demonstrated that NPs enhance hippocampal neurogenesis and synaptogenesis and restore memory in mouse models of AD and HAND. This work led her to focus on reversing brain aging and neurodegeneration.
Currently, she is investigating how oxidative/metabolic stress and glial dysfunctions affect aging and progression into AD. She recently incorporated MRI/MRS imaging into preclinical studies to evaluate effects of NP treatment on brain oxidative/metabolic stress in mouse models of AD.
In addition, Dr. Vitaliano is studying the effects of targeted NP treatment on brain connectivity and receptor/transporter densities in dopamine brain regions using MRI theranostics for the purpose of treating HIV-related substance misuse. Other ongoing projects involve the use of new MRI nanotechnologies in mouse models to further the diagnosis and treatment of various neurodegenerative diseases.
Going forward, Dr. Vitaliano seeks to continue her work on neuroprotection and neuroregeneration by receiving FDA approval for investigational new drugs and conducting clinical trials in patients with Alzheimer’s or HIV dementia using her technologies.
- Christopher W. Adam, Technical Research Assistant
- Dee Chiluiza, PhD, ExQor Technologies, Inc.
- Fei Du, PhD, McLean Hospital
- Oliviero Gobbo, PhD, Trinity College, Dublin
- Cynthia Ann Lemere, PhD, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
- Scott E. Lukas, PhD, McLean Hospital
- Jay McLaughlin, PhD, University of Florida
- Kyoko Ohashi, PhD, McLean Hospital
- Diego A. Pizzagalli, PhD, McLean Hospital
- Anna W. Sromek, PhD, McLean Hospital
- Martin Teicher, MD, PhD, McLean Hospital
- Franco Vitaliano, ExQor Technologies, Inc.
- Huan Sharon Wang, MD, PhD, Harvard Medical School
- Gonzalo Zeballos, ExQor Technologies, Inc.
Vitaliano G, Vitaliano F, Rios D, Renshaw P, Teicher M. New clathrin-based nanoplatforms for magnetic resonance imaging. PLOS ONE 2012;7(5):e35821.
Admon R, Kaiser RH, Dillon DG, Beltzer M, Goer F, Olson D, Vitaliano G, Pizzagalli D. Dopaminergic enhancement of striatal response to reward in major depression. The American Journal of Psychiatry 2017;174(4):378-386.
Teicher MH, Anderson CM, Ohashi K, Khan A, McGreenery CE, Bolger EA, Rohan ML, Vitaliano G. Differential effects of childhood neglect and abuse during sensitive exposure periods on male and female hippocampus. NeuroImage 2018;169:443-452.
Education & Training
- 1985 MD, Belgrade University Faculty of Medicine, Belgrade, Yugoslavia
- 1990 MS in Neuropsychology, Belgrade University Faculty of Medicine, Belgrade, Yugoslavia
- 2016 PhD in Neuroscience and Bioengineering, Belgrade University, Serbia
- 1988-1991 Resident in Psychiatry, Clinical Medical Center, Belgrade, Yugoslavia
- 2002-2006 Resident in Psychiatry, Tufts University School of Medicine, Caritas St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center
- 2005-2006 Chief Resident in Psychiatry, Tufts University School of Medicine, Caritas St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center
- 1986-1987 Clinical Fellow, Vienna University, Vienna, Austria
- 1987-1988 National Academy of Sciences and Arts Fellow, Clinical Medical Center, Belgrade, Yugoslavia
- 1991-1993 National Institutes of Health Fogarty Fellow, Boston University
- 1987 Medical License, National Board of Medical Examiners, Yugoslavia
- 1991 Diplomate in Psychiatry, National Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, Yugoslavia
- 2006 Medical License, Board of Registration in Medicine, Commonwealth of Massachusetts
- 2007 Psychiatry, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology