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Milka Koupenova, PhD


By Merin C. MacDonald | Date published: May 17, 2023

May Researcher Spotlight: Milka Koupenova

In this month’s Researcher Spotlight, we highlight the work of Milka Koupenova, PhD, assistant professor of medicine in the division of Cardiovascular Medicine.  

Dr. Koupenova’s research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms that underline platelet-mediated immune response during viral infections and how this response contributes to cardiovascular disease. Specifically, she is currently interested in SARS-CoV-2- or influenza-mediated sensing and signaling in platelets that may lead to an increased risk of thrombosis and coagulation. The long-term goal of her lab is to characterize the molecular sensors and signaling in platelets mediated by viruses with different genomes, and identify how these viruses may lead to non-classical platelet activation, platelet “death”, and consequently, to the impact on the surrounding environment. She is currently the principal investigator on an NIH-funded R01, "Mechanisms of Platelet Reprogramming During Influenza Infection," where she is examining the role of a previously undescribed molecular mechanism in platelets that leads to the sensing of influenza and ultimately increased thrombosis. Dr. Koupenova is also the principal investigator on an internally funded CTSA project, The Role of Platelets and Leukocytes in COVID-19 Associated Thrombotic Risk, where she is studying the platelet-mediated leukocyte response during SARS-CoV-2 infection. As part of Dr. Koupenova’s contributions to understanding the impact of COVID19 on cardiovascular disease (CVD) she has organized and co-edited a compendium of ten articles on COVID19 and CVD for the American Heart Association journal Circulation Research that is coming out this month. 

Dr. Koupenova cares deeply about scientific rigor, creativity, productivity, and diversity in her lab, in academic research, and in medicine. Of this she says, “Our lab believes that the future of scientific discovery rests in the hands of creative minds and productive collaborations between scientists from diverse backgrounds and cultures. We welcome anyone with a passion and love for science and improving health disparities.” Indeed she is committed to supporting the growth of a diverse team of researchers here at UMass Chan and in the Department of Medicine, having served in various capacities for the Cluster Hire Initiative.  Through this initiative, she was a reviewer of the UMass Chan Cluster Hire Diversity Statement and reviewed applications for the divisions of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, and Innate Immunity. She has also served on the Diversity in Research Taskforce and was a co-representative for UMass Chan at the Annual Biomedical Researcher Conference for Minority Students.  

Dr. Koupenova earned her PhD in Biochemistry from Boston University School of Medicine in Boston, Massachusetts. Following her PhD studies, she completed postdoctoral training in Platelet Biology and Thrombosis at the Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute at Boston University School of Medicine under the mentorship of Drs. Jane Freedman and Katya Ravid, and Platelet Immunology at UMass Chan Medical School, under the mentorship of Dr. Jane Freedman. Dr. Koupenova started her independent lab at UMass Chan in 2020 and continues to explore the contribution of the immune related sensors in platelets to thrombosis. 

We are grateful for Dr. Koupenova’s contributions and commitment to the mission and core values of the Department of Medicine.  

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