Dr. Garcia obtained his bachelor’s degree in Biology from Universidad Simón Bolívar in Venezuela in 1984 and his Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry from Cornell University in 1990. He worked as a researcher in the units of Neuroscience and Molecular Biology of the Institute of Advanced Studies (IDEA) in Venezuela for 7 years. After 3 years as a visiting scientist in the Laboratory of Developmental Neurobiology at the NIH, he joined the biotechnology company Wellstat Therapeutics where he performed drug discovery research in areas ranging from diabetes and inflammation to cancer and neuroscience. Dr. Garcia joined the Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center in 2014.
Dr. Garcia’s research interests are the role of brown and beige adipose tissue in obesity and their interrelationships with epigenetic factors involved in the transfer of obesity from one generation to the next. He is interested in defining the signaling pathways that regulate brown and beige adipose tissue and how these pathways can be modulated by behavioral or feeding regimens, and drugs. The ultimate goal is to develop treatments that can improve health and reduce the intergenerational transfer of obesity.
Dr. Garcia was the first to perform a comprehensive description of inter-organ metabolism of sulfur amino acids and their most important derivatives in the rat. His research identified the liver as the most active site for cysteine and methionine metabolism and taurine production.
He discovered that a subset of the neuregulin receptors in the neurons of the brain are located in the postsynaptic density and that the ErbB4 receptor, interacts with the Membrane Associated Guanylate Kinases, which are involved in the clustering of ion channels, receptors, and other proteins coupling them to signaling pathways. This work firmly established that neuregulin receptors are present at synapses and could therefore modulate synaptic plasticity. This was later borne out when the neuregulins and ErbB4 were identified as Schizophrenia susceptibility genes and the neuregulins were found to modulate brain gamma waves and the process of learning and memory.
Dr. Garcia also made discoveries in the use of supraphysiological doses of uridine in models of disease like mitochondrial impairment, neurodegenerative diseases, and inflammation. Specifically he demonstrated in an animal model that triacetyluridine is protective in cases of overexposure to the anticancer agent 5-fluorouracil, which produces significant toxicity and mortality in patients with a deficiency in the enzyme that degrades 5-fluorouracil, dihydropyrimidine dehydrogenase. His animal studies were a key part of the new drug application submitted to the FDA by Wellstat Therapeutics for the use of triacetylurine (Vistogard) to treat overdoses and early-onset severe toxicities due to 5-fluorouracil and capecitabine chemotherapies. The drug was approved by the FDA in December 2015.