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Featured APS New Member 


FRANCES J. NORTHINGTON, MD

Dr. Frances J. Northington is Professor of Pediatrics, Attending Neonatologist, and Director of the Neurosciences Intensive Care Nursery (NICN) Program at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. After undergraduate studies at the University of Georgia, she trained at the Medical College of Georgia, Arkansas Children's Hospital and the University of Virginia before joining the faculty at Johns Hopkins, where she built a record of productive collaboration with fellow investigators, also training and mentoring many young scientists. Dr. Northington's career has centered on research and clinical care aimed at understanding and ameliorating the effects of brain injury in the newborn, and her laboratory focuses on developmental neurobiology and mechanisms of neonatal brain injury and understanding of neural cell death following neonatal hypoxia-ischemia (HI).

Along with Dr. Lee Martin, Dr. Northington was the first to show that developing neurons die with phenotypes along an apoptosis-necrosis continuum; this in vivo reality of a neuronal cell death continuum was first recognized in her rodent models of neonatal HIE. She and her group later identified the receptor interacting protein (RIP1) as a probable "switching" mechanism controlling the apoptosis-necrosis continuum in neonatal HI. She was also the first to describe the role of Fas Death Receptor activation in delayed thalamic injury following neonatal HI. Partnering with Dr. Jiangyang Zhang, Dr. Northington also showed the importance of connectivity and systems mediated neurodegeneration with sequential MRI studies following neonatal HI, following in vivo demonstration of this precept in earlier work.

Drs. Northington and Zhang's research group have introduced novel advanced MRI tools not previously used for analysis of experimental neonatal brain injury. These techniques include steady pulsed imaging and labeling scheme for non-invasive perfusion imaging, in vivo oscillating gradient diffusion MRI, and use of a cryogenic probe and a modified diffusion-weighted gradient and spin echo (GRASE) imaging sequence for in vivo high-resolution diffusion tensor imaging. Funded by the NIH, American Heart Association and the March of Dimes, Dr. Northington’s current work highlights the importance of organelle specific injury following neonatal HI and divergent sex specific responses to HI and various neuroprotective therapies and is the first to describe a specific role of endoplasmic reticulum pathology in acute and subacute brain injury after HI.

Since 2009, as Director of the Johns Hopkins NICN, she has led a highly enthusiastic and productive group of clinicians and scientists from more than 10 disciplines in a coordinated clinical, research, and educational effort to improve neurologic outcomes for newborns. The JHU NICN group frequently publishes joint research papers, has funding from private and NIH sources, hosts local, regional and one international educational/research conferences, runs a state of the art educational program for residents and has multiple ongoing clinical and basic science research projects. Their recent work includes brain biomarker, cerebral autoregulation and neonatal neuroimaging studies. Dr. Northington is most proud of her recent mentees who have gone on to develop their own NICN programs at other institutions. 



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