Elena Anna (Eleanna) O. De Filippis, M.D., Ph.D.

Why did you choose to study clinical and translational research?

As an endocrinologist, I face daily how obesity and its complications affect patients' quality of life. Unfortunately, despite all we have learned on this disease, we are still missing successful and long-lived therapies.

As a clinical and translational researcher, I want to increase the understanding of the molecular mechanism or mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of obesity, leading to the identification of novel targets for safe and successful therapy development.

What type of research are you doing?

My research is focused on understanding the role of the innate immune system on adipose tissue biology. I am studying this relationship in adipose tissue from humans and rodents. I investigate the relationship between fat metabolism and white blood cells (eosinophils) and how it affects whole-body insulin sensitivity.

With the help and support of my mentors, I utilize a novel animal model under high-fat diet conditions compared to a wild-type littermate. I am also exploring this relation in people who are obese and resistant to insulin and are undergoing bariatric surgery or lifestyle modifications for weight loss. I aim to identify novel molecular mechanisms and pathways altered in the metabolism of fat.

I conduct my research at the infusion unit located at Mayo Clinic's campus in Phoenix/Scottsdale, Arizona, where my team collects human fat tissue samples by performing subcutaneous fat biopsies. We apply next-generation sequencing, flow cytometry and molecular biology techniques to fat samples, adipose tissue from rodents and adipocyte cell culture to explore research hypotheses.

Why Mayo Clinic?

Mayo Clinic is the perfect environment to develop a translational research program. The institution is a center for excellence for patient care, research and education. Collaborative spirit and team science are two values shared by physicians and scientists at Mayo Clinic.

In this organization, a young scientist such as me has multiple resources to explore his or her own potential, learning from excellent mentors and having access to state-of-the art facilities without any geographic limit. The organization encourages enterprisewide collaboration, which allows a higher number of experts to be brought into any research program.

What are you looking forward to as a KL2 scholar?

My ultimate goal is to help my patients in their struggles with obesity and its complications by learning what causes many metabolic abnormalities. Though my research questions are based on patient interactions, often the answers to those questions cannot be found solely through clinical research. I hope that by further educating myself in molecular biology and animal pathophysiology I can successfully increase the knowledge within the immunometabolism field.

The KL2 program provides an opportunity to broaden my knowledge through constant interaction with my mentoring team and by following the recommended courses. The amount of protected time and resources provided by the KL2 program guarantees a high-quality performance on my part, which I feel will be the foundation to generate impeccable data to be used for future independent grant applications.

Review Dr. De Filippis' publications on PubMed.