Balian, Gary

Primary Appointment

Professor Emeritus, Orthopaedic Surgery


  • BS, Biochemistry, Queen Elizabeth College, Univ. of London, London, England
  • PhD, Biochemistry, University of London, London, England
  • Postdoc, Biochemistry, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

Contact Information

PO Box 800374
Telephone: 924-2615/5181

Research Disciplines

Molecular Biology

Research Interests

Targeted delivery to cells and tissues

Research Description

Prostate cancer cell-bone marrow adhesion mediators:

We have discovered several small peptides that, when injected into the blood circulation, will target bone; the peptides are unique and bind to bone preferentially. In laboratory experiments, one of these peptides decreases the binding of prostate cancer cells to bone marrow endothelial cells that line the bone marrow cavity, suggesting that the peptides may prevent the spread of cancer.Determination of the effects of bone tropic peptides on cell attachment and invasion is particularly relevant to the cancer field. Identification of targeting peptides and their ligands will provide basic information towards understanding the mechanisms of metastases to bone. Contributions to our understanding of cancer cell homing to bone may be forthcoming from the identification of the targets in bone that serve as the destination for the peptides. The peptides may mimic the segment of a protein that exhibits bone targeting characteristics. This information could be an essential part of the effort to understand the mechanisms that underlie cell adhesion and invasion in cancer.

Bone repair and regeneration:

Cancer cell metastases are by no means the only area of relevance of this study. Bone repair is clearly a very important area of consideration in the field of musculoskeletal tissue regeneration. The biomimetic properties of bone tropic factors could create a technological step forward in the field of tissue engineering, as well as for prosthetic surgery of bone. Inclusion of bone targeting factors in synthetic or natural polymers may assist specificity of cell adherence, thereby scavenging endogenous cells within tissues that are undergoing repair and regeneration. Further development of this approach can lead to the discovery and development of biologically active compounds that target bone and potentiate repair through mechanisms that are well characterized biologically at the cellular and molecular levels.

Anabolic Effect of Osteogenic Peptides:

We have shown that two unique bone targeting peptides potentiate the differentiation of mesenchymal cells in vitro, moreover, the peptides promote bone repair in critical sized unicortical defects. We have identified the molecular targets for these peptides in mesenchymal cells, and our analysis of the data suggest that certain metabolic pathways are involved through which the peptides exert their osteogenic effects. We will investigate the potential anabolic effects of these novel peptides on bone density and gene expression.

Selected Publications