UPIKE students selected for Ledford Research Scholarships

The University of Pikeville-Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine (KYCOM) recently endorsed three students that were selected to receive Appalachian College Association (ACA) Ledford Research Scholarships. These scholarships offer financial assistance for summer research projects to undergraduate students enrolled at ACA member institutions. 

Junior biomedical science majors Hevannah Smith and Markisha Sowards, along with senior biology major Seth Howell are collaborating on research this summer based on filling the scientific knowledge gap of how estrogen can better the cardiovascular health of elderly people. Each student is researching a specific factor attributed to the rising instances in cardiovascular disease.

Associate Professor of Physiology Guichun Han, Ph.D., serves as a mentor to supervise the students in their individual contributions to the research being conducted in KYCOM’s laboratory. 

“By using resources and materials provided from KYCOM, awardees are working toward filling this significant knowledge gap with adequate information that can ultimately change the lives of a large number of individuals, finding a novel path to stronger hearts in the Appalachian region,” said Han. 

Sowards is exploring the role of G protein-coupled estrogen receptor in estrogen induced activation of endothelial nitric oxide synthesize.

“Filling a knowledge gap such as this one would be an incredible advancement in healthcare worldwide, but having it sprout straight from the Appalachian region would be phenomenal,” said Sowards. “Being able to give back to my community and have a breakthrough like assisting to find a cure for coronary heart disease would be amazing, especially for the small and underserved region that I call home.” 

Smith’s research focuses on determining the role of caveolin in the relation of G protein-coupled estrogen receptor and nuclear estrogen receptor alpha, as well as obtaining a solution in supplementing estrogen in order to obtain the same goal. 

“I hope that with this research, I am able to help expand the knowledge within the Appalachian region and contribute to a change that will be beneficial to many people,” said Smith.

Howell’s research examines the correlation between acetylcholine and estrogen-like compounds in activation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase. He hopes his research is the first step toward developing a cure for high blood pressure. 

“We all have worked very hard to have this opportunity and it feels amazing to know that all our hard work has been worth it,” said Howell. “Especially that my research may have the opportunity to help people along the way while being focused on something I am very passionate about.”

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