Dr Samanta Mariani
My research focuses on understanding how embryonic macrophages participate in steady-state haematopoiesis and organogenesis in mammalian embryos, and how their biological functions can contribute to the in utero onset of infant diseases.
Haematopoiesis in the mammalian embryo occurs in waves, and different waves give rise to different haematopoietic cells. Interestingly, macrophages are generated by all three major haematopoietic waves, and they infiltrate the majority of the tissues during embryonic development. It was previously thought that, during embryonic development, macrophages were needed only for tissue remodelling and phagocytosis of dead cells. However, recent reports on pro-angiogenic and endocardial-derived macrophages suggest they are essential components of different embryonic niches. We have also recently discovered a new population of macrophages present at the birth-site of haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) in the mouse embryo. These macrophages have an essential role in HSC generation/maturation and their absence decreases the capacity of the embryo to generate fully functional HSCs. Interestingly, in different types of adult leukaemia, macrophages can become “Leukaemia-associated macrophages” and promote chemoresistance and disease progression.
Our work focuses on understanding the role of macrophages in steady-state embryonic haematopoiesis, and how they contribute to the onset and early progression of infant leukaemia.
My lab uses multi-colour flow cytometry, high resolution proteomics and transcriptional profiling (bulk and single cell RNAseq) in combination with in vivo and in vitro functional assays to:
- Create new knowledge on how to mimic and reproduce the positive role that macrophages have on HSC generation/maturation, with the final aim of generating transplantable HSCs in vitro.
- Assess the negative role that macrophages have during the in utero onset and early progression of infant leukaemia, with the final aim of designing innovative macrophage-targeting therapeutic strategies for the disease.
The following PDF provides a brief visual summary of this group's current research.
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After defending an experimental thesis on malignant haematopoiesis, Samanta Mariani obtained a Master’s Degree in Medical Biotechnology from the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia (Italy). She then moved to Milan to join an international PhD programme on Cellular and Molecular Biology held by the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University and the Open University of London.
During the four years of her PhD in Professor Guido Poli's laboratory, she worked on HIV-1 biology. After successfully defending her PhD thesis, she decided to move to the United States to experience a new research environment and broaden her scientific expertise. Changing scientific topics between the Master's and PhD led to her fascination in human haematopoiesis and the desire to find a postdoc in that field. Thus, she joined the laboratory of Professor Bruno Calabretta at the Thomas Jefferson University of Philadelphia. At the end of 2014, she joined Professor Elaine Dzierzak's laboratory for a second postdoc at the University of Edinburgh. Here she worked on different projects focused on steady-state developmental haematopoiesis and immunology.
In January 2021, she was awarded a Chancellor's Fellowship and entry to the ESAT tenure-track programme at the University of Edinburgh. This allowed her to open up a new line of research on embryonic macrophages and their role in health and disease, with a special focus on normal and malignant foetal/infant haematopoiesis.
Active member of the Science Festivals subcommittee of the CIR public engagement team.
Founding member of 'Macrophages@EdUni' interest group and co-organiser of the annual 'A cell for all seasons: Macrophages in health and disease' symposium.