Department of Cardiology
Union Graduate College
Xiaoming Hu is an Assistant Professor of Neurology at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. She received her master degree on immunology at China-Japan Friendship Institute of Clinical Medicine in China and PhD in Neuroscience at University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. She received postdoctoral training in neuron-immunology and stroke research at National Institute of Environmental Health Science and University of Pittsburgh, respectively. Her research interests include understanding how neuroinflammation contributes to the pathogenesis of neurological disorders and how to beneficially modulate the cerebral inflammatory response after ischemia and brain injury. Dr. Hu is a member of the American Heart Association, American Neurology Association, Society for Neuroscience, and International Society of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism.
Xiaoming Hu’s core research interests are to explore the immune-related mechanisms and to identify novel immunotherapies for stroke and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Stroke and TBI are devastating as currently no therapy is available to prevent neurological deficits in these conditions. Pivotal roles of immune responses in the brain pathology and in the process of brain recovery have been highlighted in recent years. These immune responses, while essential in protecting the brain from the necrotic spillage of intracellular contents and in promoting brain repair, can also propel and propagate brain damage when overactivated. Therefore, characterizing the immune response after stroke or TBI and revealing the mechanisms of immunoregulation promise to unveil effective immunotherapies. The research in Dr. Hu’s lab focuses on three areas. First, I have been working on characterizing the microglia/macrophage responses after stroke and TBI. We discovered that microglia/macrophages respond dynamically to brain injuries, experiencing an early "healthy" M2 phenotype followed by a transition to a "sick" M1 phenotype (Hu et al stroke 2012; 43:3063; Wang et al. ICBFM 2013, 33: 1864). This finding has informed the scientific community that therapies toward stroke or TBI should be shifted from simply suppressing microglia/macrophage activation towards adjusting the balance between beneficial and detrimental immune responses. Currently, I am exploring the mechanism for microglia/macrophage polarization. Second, Dr. Hu’s lab explores “recovery-enhancing drugs” that not only promote gray matter integrity but also enhance white matter recovery after stroke and TBI. Microglia-mediated immune responses are one of the critical factors that impact the white matter integrity after brain injurues. One of Dr. Hu’s ongoing research projects is to explore the immunomodulatory reagents that may promote white matter, as well as gray matter integrity after stroke or TBI. Third, I am among the first to study the role of regulatory T cells in ischemic stroke. We demonstrated neuroprotective effects of this specialized T cell subpopulation in cerebral ischemia (Li et al., Ann Neurol 2013; 74:458; Li et al., Stroke 2013; 44: 3509; Li et al., Stroke 2014; 45: 857). Intriguingly, we found that regulatory T cells could provide early protection to the ischemic brain without brain infiltration by regulating peripheral immune cell activation after stroke. These studies highlight a dynamic interaction between the periphery and the brain after stroke, which offers new targets and strategies for stroke therapy. In order to take this exciting discovery forward, recent work in Dr. Hu’s lab is exploring the long-term effect of regulatory T cell in functional recovery after stroke.