Prof in Biology Receives American Heart Association Grant for Research



Jessica Snow

Las Vegas, N.M. – A New Mexico Highlands University biology professor received an American Heart Association grant for research aimed at shedding new light on the role the estrogen hormone plays in pulmonary hypertension.

Jessica Snow’s two-year American Heart Association grant totals $155,000.

“Pulmonary hypertension, or high blood pressure in the lungs, puts a greater workload on the right side of the heart, and while rare, can be fatal if not treated,” Snow said. “My American Heart Association study will be the first to delve into the role of the novel estrogen GPER in pulmonary hypertension. GPER is a protein in the body that binds estrogen to tissues.”

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

“Statistics suggest that one form of pulmonary hypertension is more prevalent in young otherwise healthy women, presumably because they have higher levels of estrogen. In contrast, estrogen protects against pulmonary hypertension in experimental animal models like mice and rats,” Snow said.

Snow said some aspects of the research project will be conducted in her laboratory at Highlands and other elements of the study will be carried out with research collaborators at the University of New Mexico such as Tom Resta and Eric Prossnitz.

“We will be assessing what impacts removing GPER has on mice and rats to create a better understanding of what happens in humans. This research is important because by better understanding what role this specific estrogen receptor plays, we can better development strategies for the prevention and treatment of pulmonary hypertension,” Snow said.

Snow said it’s exciting that the American Heart Association grant targets involving undergraduate and graduate students in research.

“We will use this grant to involve our students in high-level, hands-on biomedical research at Highlands. We know that research is a high-impact practice that helps improve success for college students. I was thrilled to be selected for this American Heart Association grant on my first submission,” Snow said.

Snow joined the Highlands University faculty fall semester 2014. She completed her Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and postdoctoral fellowship at the University of New Mexico. In 2016, she began a research program at Highlands investigating sex differences in cardiovascular disease using mouse models.

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.

The American Heart Association is a national voluntary health organization dedicated to building healthier lives free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Funding research like Snow’s is a cornerstone of the AHA’s mission and it has awarded research grants since 1949.