Rebecca Ionasescu, 86 Victor Ionasescu, 83

Rebecca and Victor IonasescuDrs. Rebecca and Victor Ionasescu, researchers into muscular dystrophy and Charcot-Marie-Tooth, have passed away after a long life with each other.

Dr. Rebecca (Gabi) Ionasescu, who specialized in internal medicine and conducted research in immunology back in Romania, joined Victor in the 1970s in his neuromuscular laboratory doing tissue cultures in Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Gabi became an expert at tissue cultures of muscle cells and studied media formulation in the lab of Dr. Richard Ham, who developed many of the serum-free media formulations used by labs today. Gabi then went on to learn the special techniques required for research in a type of genetic nerve disease called Charcot-Marie-Tooth neuropathy. In 1982, Victor and Gabi began their work with Charcot-Marie-Tooth neuropathy and spent 15 years searching for the genes that cause the debilitating disease. Victor along with his wife spent a sabbatical year at Oxford University in the lab of Dr. Kay Davies learning the specialized recombinant DNA techniques, which allowed them to carry out this research. Victor had one of the largest databases of patients afflicted with this disease in U.S, which was the foundation of his genetics lab.

Full text of the obituary inside.


Dr. Rebecca Ionasescu, also known as Gabi, passed away suddenly on February 12, 2010, at age 86. She was a vibrant woman, with a keen intelligence and a generous heart, whose dedication to her work and the people around her made her very special.
Her death was followed by her husband’s, Dr. Victor V. Ionasescu, 83, just 12 days later, on February 24, 2010. He had sensed her death even before he was told, and his condition worsened after a long illness. He was a driven scientist with an inquisitive mind, a captivating storyteller and teacher with an exquisite sense of humor.
Theirs is a love story that spanned 63 years. Victor and Gabi met in 1945 in medical school in Bucharest, Romania, shortly after the end of World War II. A colleague introduced them so they could find comfort in each other after the death of Gabi’s father and Victor’s sister that year. They started dating in 1947, married in 1951. Their relationship
was founded on their shared love for medicine, and desire to help and heal people.
Dr. Victor Ionasescu specialized in neurology. The Romanian scientist, George Palade and his discovery of ribosomes, which led to a Nobel Prize in 1974, inspired him. Victor began his own research in muscular dystrophy using ribosomes extracted from muscle biopsies of patients with the disease. His research was soon limited by the
technological and economic means of Romania, which was a communist country at that time. His research required the use of a refrigerated centrifuge, which was not available. It was then that he decided to come to United States to pursue his research ideas. His wife supported him in this endeavor and, when he left in 1968, she stayed behind with their two daughters. They eventually were able to reunite in United States three years later. So began Victor’s professional career at the University of Iowa Hospitals, in the department of Pediatric Neurology.
In 1969, Dr. Victor Ionasescu initiated his research in the Duchenne type of muscular dystrophy, which was published in 1971 under the title “Ribosomal Protein Synthesis in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy”.
Dr. Rebecca (Gabi) Ionasescu, who specialized in internal medicine and conducted research in immunology back in Romania, joined Victor in the 1970s in his neuromuscular laboratory doing tissue cultures in Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Gabi became an expert at tissue cultures of muscle cells and studied media formulation in the lab of Dr.
Richard Ham, who developed many of the serum-free media formulations used by labs today. Gabi then went on to learn the special techniques required for research in a type of genetic nerve disease called Charcot-Marie-Tooth neuropathy. In 1982, Victor and Gabi began their work with Charcot-Marie-Tooth neuropathy and spent 15 years searching for the genes that cause the debilitating disease. Victor along with his wife spent a sabbatical year at Oxford University in the lab of Dr. Kay Davies learning the specialized recombinant DNA techniques, which allowed them to carry out this research. Victor had one of the largest databases of patients afflicted with this disease in U.
S, which was the foundation of his genetics lab.
Both husband and wife eventually traced the disease to several faulty genes by means of a technique called genetic linkage using recombinant DNA.Their findings were published in medical journals throughout the world. Their research in Charcot-Marie-Tooth neuropathy led to the discovery of at least four defective genes including what is now
called the Ionasescu Syndrome, an X-linked form of Charcot-Marie-Tooth syndrome. Dr. Victor Ionasescu became Professor of Pediatrics and Director of the Muscular Dystrophy Association Clinic at the University of Iowa. From 1990 until he retired in 1997 he taught an annual postgraduate course in adult neurology called “Genetics of
Inherited Neuropathies and Genetics of X-linked Recessive Muscular Dystrophies (Duchenne and
Becker).”
Dr. Victor Ionasescu belonged to the first generation of the Romanian School of Neurology, founded by Dr. George Marinesco, which had epilepsy as one of the central themes of clinical research. Victor Ionasescu published his first book in Romania in 1957, entitled Temporal Lobe Epilepsy. A second book followed in 1967, Metabolic Disorders in Neurologic and Psychiatric Diseases, also in Romania. In 1983, he co-authored a book with Dr. Hans Zellweger at the University of Iowa Hospitals, entitled Genetics in Neurology, and which they dedicated to their mentors George
Marinesco and Guido Fanconi. This book emphasizes the genetic aspects of neurological disorders.
Victor and Gabi’s thirst for knowledge never stopped. They loved their profession, but also traveling, learning foreign languages and meeting people. They worked at the University of Iowa Hospitals into their 70s. For the past 12 years, they lived in Stamford, Connecticut, close to their older daughter, and all the cultural attractions offered by New York.
They are survived by their two children, Anisoara Kavalan of Stamford (husband Joseph, and children Cristine and Nicole), Rodica Ionasescu of La Canada, California (children Philip and Stephanie Anderson), and Gabi’s sister. Victor’s sister and brother preceded him in death. David Anderson, their son-in-law, died in 2001.
Funeral services were held in Stamford, Connecticut, on February 17 for Gabi and on February 27 for Victor.

One thought on “Rebecca Ionasescu, 86 Victor Ionasescu, 83

  1. Hello—-I had Dr. Hans Zwelleger & Dr. Victor Ionasecu both as Dr.s wonderful to work with once you got past the accent….I had both nerve & muscle biopsies. Wish there were more doctors like them today. Very interesting in the family as a whole study did a wonderful job….may they rest in peace.

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