The research group of Y.S. Prakash, M.D., Ph.D., studies human lung diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis and pulmonary hypertension. Using state-of-the-art tools applied to human and animal models, Dr. Prakash's group is working toward developing novel therapies and approaches to treat such diseases in babies, children and adults, especially in women and older adults.
Dr. Prakash has a unique training background as an anesthesiologist, physiologist, and electrical and biomedical engineer, which allows him to bring unique perspectives to research on the "how and why" of these clinically relevant diseases.
Dr. Prakash works with an outstanding interdisciplinary team of young clinician-scientists, researchers, graduate students and technicians in his Pulmonary Cell Biology Laboratory, with the motto "you are only as good as the people you work with."
Asthma and inflammation. Asthma is a complex, chronic disease. Understanding how asthma develops and gets worse in spite of therapies, such as steroids, can truly impact the millions of people with asthma worldwide. Dr. Prakash's research — funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) — is focused on understanding how growth factors called neurotrophins play central roles in airway inflammation and asthma.
Using a large collection of samples of lungs from people with and without asthma, smokers, and other patients, as well as animal models of asthma, Dr. Prakash is uniquely positioned to study asthma mechanisms with tools for microscopic imaging, biochemistry and molecular biology, physiology, genomics, and metabolomics.
Asthma in women. Women show greater incidence and severity of asthma than do men, with fluctuations during menstruation, pregnancy and menopause. It is not fully understood if or how hormones such as estrogen or progesterone work in the lung. In fact, it's not known if hormones are protective or detrimental in asthma.
Dr. Prakash's group has been researching the physiological basis for sex differences in asthma and the importance of hormone receptors in lung disease — discoveries that would allow individualized asthma therapy for men versus women.
Lung diseases in premature babies. Preterm birth continues to be a major medical problem, and babies born prematurely who survive past the neonatal intensive care unit remain at lifelong risk of asthma and wheezing. Maternal and fetal infection, exposure in the intensive care unit to factors such as high oxygen and ventilators, and even postnatal environmental factors such as cigarette smoke substantially worsen lung disease in babies and children who were born prematurely.
Dr. Prakash's group has been working to understand how such factors influence the immature lung and what can be done to prevent damage.
- Pulmonary hypertension. Pulmonary hypertension is a devastating disease that still lacks robust medical therapies. Dr. Prakash is particularly intrigued by why women of childbearing age are the largest patient group, when at the same time, women are less affected by coronary artery and systemic vascular disease. He is exploring the role of hormones, especially their local metabolism in the blood vessels of the lung, using human pulmonary artery samples from patients with and without hypertension.
Significance to patient care
The burden of lung diseases in the U.S. and worldwide is immense, and affects all age groups from newborns to the very elderly. Factors such as allergies, infections, smoking and environmental tobacco smoke exposures, pollution, and even the normal processes of development and aging all contribute to incidence and severity of diseases such as asthma, COPD and pulmonary fibrosis.
Dr. Prakash's work has tremendous potential in identifying novel biomarkers and therapeutic targets for a range of human lung diseases across the life span. Ongoing work on the immature airways of newborns has the potential to significantly impact the lives of premature babies. His recent work on sex differences and hormones has the potential for individualized medicine approaches to asthma and pulmonary hypertension.
- Standing member, Lung Cellular Molecular Immunology (LCMI) study section for grant reviews, NIH, 2015-2019
- R01 grant recipient, NIH, 1998-present. Dr. Prakash has the unique honor of being perhaps the only medical student to hold a major NIH Research Project Grant (R01) while concurrently finishing medical school. Dr. Prakash has three NIH R01 grants and is currently working on two additional R01 grants.
- Deputy editor, American Journal of Physiology: Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology, 2012-2015
- Inductee, American Society of Clinical Investigation, 2011
- Inductee, Association of University Anesthesiologists, 2007