Elena Di Martino - Neonatal hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy : inflammation and therapies

Hello and congratulations to your PhD,
People at the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health and others are interested to know a little more about your work

Elena Di Martino, Adamantia Fragkopoulou, Klas Blomgren, Giulia Gaudenzi, Ola Hermanson and Cecilia Dominguez
Elena Di Martino Photo: Ulf Sirborn

What is your thesis about?

The main topic of my PhD thesis was neonatal asphyxia. We reproduced the injury in a mouse model of neonatal hypoxia-ischemia encephalopathy and we evaluated the post-ischemic neuroinflammation. Specifically, I focused my research on microglia, the main immune cells of the brain. Together with my colleagues I tried to answer to questions like: what is microglia role? What happens to the brain if microglia get depleted? What is microglia interaction with peripheral macrophages that infiltrate the brain after injury?

In addition, I evaluated the therapeutic properties of caffeine or bone marrow-derived stem cells as possible treatment agents, with the aim of reducing brain injury and offering neuroprotection.

Which is the most important key result? 

There are many. First of all, we discovered that microglial cells have a protective function and that, upon depletion, the brain injury increases. Also, we identified some key-features that distinguish microglia from infiltrating macrophages, and this is of fundamental importance when it comes to the therapeutic approach. Lastly, we observed functional recovery and neuroprotection in mice that receive caffeine treatment right after injury.

Is there something else you would like to add? Maybe something that surprised you during your PhD student journey

Science has highs and lows.. some negative data, protocols to optimize, long hours and so on. But, when finally everything is set, it is great fun to work in the lab!

Also, KI has lots to offer, and networking is fundamental to get good collaborations, make new friends and take part to lots of extracurricular activities.

How can this new knowledge contribute to improve women’s and children’s health?

This project has broadened the knowledge on the dynamics of the post-ischemic neuroinflammation, paving the way for further studies in the field of cell therapies, and hopefully clinical trials on caffeine administration as possible therapeutic agent. 

Thank you Elena and good luck in the future.


Neonatal hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy : inflammation and therapies