Roanoke Professor is Co-Investigator on Major Research Grant

Dr. Chris Lassiter is pictured with fellow faculty and students.

Dr. Chris Lassiter is pictured with fellow faculty and students.

Dr. Christopher Lassiter has studied hormones for nearly a decade.

SALEM, VA- Dr. Christopher Lassiter, assistant professor of biology at Roanoke, recently was awarded a grant from the Virginia Commonwealth Health Research Board (CHRB). The two-year research grant of $263,000 begins July 1 and is shared with four investigators at Virginia Military Institute. The grant supports work at the two institutions on "Estrogen's Role in Protecting the Cardiovascular System from Damage and Degenerative Diseases."

For nearly a decade, Lassiter has been studying hormones such as estrogen and testosterone in embryonic development using zebrafish. At Roanoke, he has mentored over a half dozen undergraduates doing research over the past three years, with projects focused on identifying testosterone receptors in the fish.

"Zebrafish use many of the same genes during embryonic development that humans use," Lassiter says. "We can treat the transparent zebrafish embryos with estrogen or anti-estrogens in these experiments and examine the heart as it forms. Much evidence shows estrogen affects the cardiovascular system. The recent halt of hormone therapy trials due to the confounding effects of estrogen demonstrates that more basic evidence on the sex hormones needs to be investigated. Students from Roanoke College will have the opportunity to become involved in an exciting collaborative research effort."

The investigators at VMI include Colonel James E. Turner, LTC Wade Bell, Major Leah Stands and Major Dan McCain. Turner is the grant's principal investigator.

In 1997, the General Assembly passed and the Governor signed an act establishing the Commonwealth Health Research Board to provide financial support for human health research in the Commonwealth. The Board's primary responsibility is to make grants for human health research, especially for those efforts that have the potential of maximizing human health benefits for citizens of the Commonwealth. To date the CHRB has awarded over 100 grants totaling approximately $7 million.

Roanoke College, an independent, co-educational, four-year liberal arts college in Salem, Virginia, combines firsthand learning with valuable personal connections in a classic, undergraduate setting. Roanoke prepares students for their futures through its commitment to providing a true classic college experience. Roanoke is one of just 276 colleges nationwide with a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation's oldest and most prestigious honor society. The Princeton Review names Roanoke as one of the "best in the Southeast."

For additional information, call the Roanoke College Public Relations Office at (540) 375-2282.

Released: June 23, 2008
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