Eleni Antoniadou was born in Thessaloniki in 1988 and studied Computer Science and Biomedical Informatics at the University of Thessaly in Greece. She later continued her studies at University College London and at the University of Illinois, where she earned graduate degrees in Nanotechnology and Regenerative Medicine, and Bioengineering and Tissue Engineering respectively.
Eleni has received worldwide recognition from the scientific community for her involvement in the development of life-saving therapies for artificial organ transplantations, and has received awards including the NASA – ESA Outstanding Researcher Award for 2012, the 50 for the Future Award, and was voted 2013 Woman of the Year at the annual British FDM Everywoman in Technology Awards.
“I think of myself as a futurist and a hybrid scientist which is the result of acquiring a multidisciplinary education. As a researcher, I’m trying to understand the changes in life sciences and to enjoy challenging myself with problems in the fields of regenerative medicine, the development of artificial organs, bioengineering, and space exploration,” says Eleni.
She has also received several fellowships for her doctoral studies and was selected from among 1,200 students to participate in a course at the NASA Ames Academy for Space Exploration, where she continues to work as a Researcher focused on studying the effects of changes in atmospheric pressure on the nervous systems of astronauts.
“Being a member of the NASA Academy is not just a great scientific opportunity for me but fulfilling my childhood dream. I yearn to become a NASA astronaut and work on exploring life in outer space and ways to increase life expectancy on earth through novel scientific approaches within the field of the development of artificial organs and regenerative medicine.
“My family and friends still remember me begging my parents to buy me freeze-dried astronaut food, wearing t-shirts with the NASA logo and reading space science books in primary school. At the age of 22, it was of no surprise that I got a pilot license and a skydiving license and I feel that it’s about time for me to live my dream. I am honored and overwhelmed with joy to be part of NASA,” Eleni adds.
The talented scientists’ focus is to help ease human pain by translating scientific findings into therapeutic treatments that are affordable and accessible to patients. She was able to prove this possible when along with her colleague she developed an artificial trachea that was later used in the first successful artificial organ transplant in the history of medicine on a 36-year-old late-stage tracheal cancer patient.
“This case was the first successful artificial organ transplantation in the history of medicine and proved the potential that regenerative medicine holds for future transplantation therapies,” Eleni said.
After this huge achievement, Eleni co-founded Transplants Without Donors, a company that is dedicated to developing life-saving therapies for artificial organs. As President and Scientific Researcher.
She is also involved in humanitarian aid missions to Uganda, Peru and Costa Rica where she has served as a volunteer Group Leader with the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children.
“From a humanistic standpoint, the major aim of our project is to give an end to the human organ trafficking, a transnational organized crime, that is rising in third world countries and has become a lucrative facet of economic development by annihilating the need for real organs. To this end, I have been actively involved in volunteering as the group leader for Peru, Uganda, and Costa Rica medical mission trips where we provide pharmaceuticals, vaccinations and perform surgical procedures for free to children patients,” Eleni says.
She also serves as the President of the European Health Parliament in Brussels and is an advocate for raising awareness regarding illegal and immoral organ trafficking. In addition, Eleni participates in medical volunteering missions in affected areas from the illegal organ trading in Latin America to provide for the victims that don’t have access to any medical rehabilitation treatment.
“I was blessed to be born in the land of light, Greece, where philosophy, art, politics, and literature thrived and became the roots of modern science. Philosophy means the “love of wisdom” and this has been my guiding force in my journey to knowledge.”
*Source: NASA Ames Academy