BellisProfessor of Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology

Address: Mccallum Building, 982A
Birmingham, AL 35294
Telephone: (205) 934-3441






Ph.D. (Biochemistry), University of Rhode Island
Post-doctoral Fellow, SUNY Health Science Center in Syracuse, NY

Research Interests

The Bellis laboratory has two principal areas of research interest:

Role of receptor glycosylation in conferring a stem-like, apoptosis-resistant cell phenotype
Our laboratory has determined that the ST6Gal-I glycosyltransferase adds a sialic acid to a distinct subset of receptors, thereby imparting an undifferentiated cell phenotype. Using cell model systems and genetically engineered mice, we have shown that ST6Gal-I-mediated sialylation controls the function of select integrins, growth factor receptors and death receptors. Collectively these molecular pathways direct intracellular signaling cascades that regulate the migration and survival of both immune cells and epithelial tumor cells. In the case of tumor cells, upregulation of ST6Gal-I confers a cancer stem cell phenotype, and accelerates metastatic progression in animal models. The broad goal of our research is to elucidate the mechanistic basis for sialylation-dependent receptor signaling, and to determine whether manipulating sialylation levels can be used as a clinical treatment for pathologies such as autoimmune disorders and metastatic cancer.

Biomimetic scaffolds for bone repair
The goal of this project is to create bone-like synthetic matrices for bone regeneration using technologies such as electrospinning and 3D printing. The composite scaffolds produced by our group support robust mesenchymal stem cell survival and proliferation, and also stimulate substantial new bone formation when implanted into bone defects. To further enhance the osteoinductive properties of the substrates, the matrices are being functionalized with tissue regenerative factors such as PDGF and BMP-2. In complementary studies, we are developing novel methods for improving the bonding of bioactive proteins and peptides to bone-mimetic scaffolds. Our broad objective is to synthesize regenerative scaffolds that, when implanted, stimulate recruitment and osteoblastic differentiation of the patient’s mesenchymal stem cells, leading to accelerated bone regeneration.