Physician-scientist Krithika Lingappan, MD, PhD, MS, recently joined the Division of Neonatology at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and as Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Lingappan has dedicated her career to neonatology as a researcher, educator and clinician. She has an unrelenting curiosity and determination to improve outcomes for premature babies and high-risk newborn babies.

Dr. Lingappan leads her own independent lab in the section of neonatology. She is currently funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to elucidate the underlying molecular mechanisms driving sex-specific differences in neonatal hyperoxic lung injury with the goal to develop individualized therapeutic options to decrease morbidity in preterm babies.

Numerous clinical studies have reported a higher incidence of bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) in premature boys after adjusting for other confounders. Despite the well-established sex-specific differences in the incidence of BPD and impaired lung function in males, the molecular mechanism(s) behind this are not completely understood. Dr. Lingappan’s research will substantially bridge the knowledge gap in this field, with the eventual goal to design therapies to benefit premature neonates.

Dr. Lingappan has established herself as a leader in this neonatology subspecialty with her involvement in the American Academy of Pediatrics, Section of Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine, NIH-funded lung basic science research, evidence-based clinical neonatology practice, and trainee engagement and education.

Her lab has made several important contributions in this field in preclinical studies in a murine model, including:

  • Highlighting differences in the pulmonary transcriptome and epigenome
  • Delineating the role of sex chromosomes versus hormones in the newborn lung
  • Investigating sex-specific differences at the cellular level

Her research emphasizes the importance of sex as a biological variable in the neonatal population. Dr. Lingappan’s lab is also focused on studying:

  • Endothelial to mesenchymal transition (EndoMT) — a complex biological process that plays a role during pathological postnatal fibrosis in organs such as the heart, lung and kidney — to determine its role in BPD
  • The role of aberrant Notch signaling in pulmonary dysangiogenesis in BPD
  • The molecular mechanisms underlying the effect of environmental exposures to chemicals and outcomes, such as BPD, in premature neonates

Dr. Lingappan is very passionate and purposeful about gender equity, diversity and inclusion both in laboratory and clinical medicine. She will be leading basic/translational research in the division, mentoring trainees and junior faculty, and contributing to the department’s mission of excellence in research.

“My future efforts will have a focus on advancing research in the field of neonatal lung development, injury and repair with the goal to improve understanding of the disease pathogenesis and possibly develop new therapies, teaching and mentoring the next generation of scientists and continue to learn from the leaders in my field,” she says.

A native of India, she completed medical school at Kilpauk Medical College in Tamil Nadu and pediatrics residencies at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, Miami Children’s Hospital, and the University of Chicago. She did her fellowship in Neonatal- Perinatal Medicine and was awarded master’s and doctoral degrees from the Clinical Scientist Training Program at Baylor College of Medicine.

“I have been fortunate to have leadership experience at national and regional organizations,” she says. “As the leader for several national-level groups, I have been able to create a unique niche for myself in the neonatology subspecialty.”