Dr. Irina Petrache Selected as HDI Scholar

December 1, 2014

Dr. Petrache is creating a drug for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that will target a specific protein that causes vascular epithelial cell inflammation and death.

Irina Petrache, MD, is the Dr. Calvin H. English Professor of Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Ind.

Dr. Petrache and her team are investigating the pathogenesis of and repair strategies for lung injury that occurs in emphysema (COPD). Their work has helped to demonstrate that cell death of structural components of the lung alveolus, epithelial and endothelial cells is sufficient to cause emphysema. They demonstrated that modifications in the abundance of the signaling sphingolipid ceramide trigger a cascade of events that culminates in emphysema-like disease in animals. To rebalance the sphingolipid homeostasis, they recently demonstrated that augmentation of endothelial pro-survival signaling with sphingosine-1 phosphate agonists is effective in preventing lung structural cell apoptosis and airspace enlargement.

The Petrache laboratory also studies lung–protective mechanisms, specifically the anti-protease alpha 1 antitrypsin (A1AT). This work has advanced the understanding of emphysema pathogenesis and may expand the applications for A1AT therapies. The lab’s objective is to understand the role and application of sphingolipid signaling in COPD and to investigate the mechanisms by which A1AT has direct cellular protective mechanisms in COPD, with the goal of enhancing its therapeutic application and effectiveness.

Dr. Petrache earned her medical degree from the University of Medicine and Pharmacy Carol Davila, Bucharest Romania. She served her residency at St. Luke’s Medical Center, Case Western reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, and completed fellowships in research and Pulmonary Critical Care Medicine at John Hopkins, Baltimore, Md.

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