Maria Petraki

Maria Petraki

Degree

PhD student

Research Centre

The Ritchie Centre

Area of study

Neuroprotection and neonatal health

Supervisors

Year of enrolment

2018

Why did you choose Hudson Institute and your research group?

When I was in the third year of my undergraduate degree, I undertook a research unit at Hudson Institute looking at stem cell treatments for cerebral palsy and I absolutely fell in love with medical research. I also discovered that students here have so many more opportunities for hands-on research, networking, travelling and being supported by world-known researchers, doctors and scientists. I chose my lab group as I specifically expressed an interest for brain diseases, neuroprotection and neonatal health.

What is your research about and what do you hope to achieve?

The focus of my research is to explore a drug therapy for neonates who are deprived of oxygen and blood flow during pregnancy or around the time of birth. This can cause brain injury, inflammation and long term neurological and motor impairments which can potentially lead to conditions like cerebral palsy. Current standard care therapies include hypothermia which only allows a very small window for treatment and often still results in long term disabilities in treated infants. It is clear that more effective and targeted therapies need to be developed to protect the neonatal brain and improve behavioural outcomes. My research project focuses on targeting the inflammation that results from perinatal brain injury and using inhibitors to protect the brain. I hope that my research during my Honours will contribute to our understanding of of inflammation and new ways to treat perinatal brain injury.

What is it like being a student at Hudson Institute?

Hudson Institute is a world-renowned research and translational facility where students can put their research into context. It is incredible to have the opportunity to interact daily with clinicians, scientists, supervisors and discuss your research as well as being on top of clinical trial news. Life at Hudson Institute is challenging and incredible and has given me the opportunity to question science and always try to improve my scientific skills. As a student, you are constantly exposed to new techniques and information and not a day passes without learning something exciting and useful. I feel very lucky to be part of such a prestigious and supportive environment.

What opportunities have you had at Hudson Institute?

When I completed my project on stem cells at Hudson Institute during my undergrad degree, I had the opportunity to send my abstract to the International Conference for Undergraduate Research (ICUR) and received an invitation to present my research in September 2018. I think this is an inspiring and valuable opportunity for any student and a great start to a scientific career.

How will your research help others?

Perinatal brain injury and subsequent conditions such as cerebral palsy are a big burden around the world, and in Australia, one baby is born with CP every 15 hours. Through my research, I hope to provide more insight into the inflammatory events that take place in the neonatal brain after injury and help target this inflammation in order to prevent brain injury.