Prof in Biology’s Paper Helps Shed Light on Diagnosing Pulmonary Hypertension


Jessica Snow

Las Vegas, N.M. – A New Mexico Highlands University biology professor will publish a research study that helps shed new light on better diagnosis and treatment of pulmonary hypertension.

Jessica Snow co-authors the paper that will be published in the American Journal of Physiology.

“We probed the microscopic details of the body that underlie pulmonary hypertension, or high blood pressure in the lungs,” Snow said. “Pulmonary hypertension puts a greater work load on the right side of the heart and can be fatal.”

Snow is a vascular physiologist whose primary research focus is the control of blood flow in the lungs.

“We know that living at high altitudes or having chronic obstructive pulmonary disease lead to pulmonary hypertension. This disease is something we can mimic in rodents, and we used rats to conduct our research.

“We learned in this study about a unique signaling pathway within the small arteries of the lungs. We found that the cell skeleton, the network of proteins that provide structure to the cell, actually rearranges in the disease state in a dynamic way that has never been reported before. In addition, it appears that this cellular skeletal arrangement contributes to the progression of pulmonary hypertension.”

Snow said better understanding these molecular players in the progression of disease leads to more effective diagnosis and treatment of pulmonary hypertension in humans.

Snow joined the Highlands University faculty fall semester 2014. She completed her Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Cell Biology and Physiology at the University of New Mexico with her mentor, Tom Resta.

She conducted the research study for the American Journal of Physiology in collaboration with Resta and a team of other scientists from UNM.

In 2016, Snow began a research program at Highlands investigating sex differences in cardiovascular disease using mouse models. She said it is an ongoing high priority for her to involve Highlands students in her research.

“We know that research is a high-impact practice that helps improve academic success for all college students. At Highlands, research helps benefit our students in developing their passion for science and in building their credentials to pursue graduate school in their discipline and other career paths like medical school,” Snow said.

Snow said her interest in physiology dates back to her undergraduate years at the University of Illinois where she earned a biology degree magna cum laude. She was also named to the Big Ten All-Academic Team for Women’s Track and Field for success in competing in the heptathlon, which is composed of seven events.

“Physiology is how the body works and as an athlete, one can’t help but be fascinated by how our bodies perform,” Snow said.

At Highlands, Snow teaches courses such as Anatomy and Physiology, Human Biology, Genetics, and Laboratory Safety.

“My teaching goal is to generate lifelong enthusiasm in my students for understanding the complexity of how our human bodies function,” Snow said.

Snow’s research is published in top scholarly publications such as the Journal of Applied Physiology and the American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology.

She presents at conferences for the Federation of American Society for Experimental Biology and the American Thoracic Society, among others.