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L. Ashley Cowart, Ph.D.

Director, VCU Lipidomics/Metabolomics Shared Resource

Research program member: Cancer Cell Signaling

Box 980614
1101 E. Marshall St.
Richmond, VA 23298




Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, School of Medicine


PhD, Vanderbilt University (2001)

Research description

Our laboratory studies obesity and the links between obesity and cancer. Several of our active projects assess the role of bioactive sphingolipids in cancer progression and metastasis. Specifically, fatty liver disease (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) raises the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma. We are testing mechanisms for this progression and have evidence that sphingosine-1-phosphate, a sphingolipid ligand for a family of G protein-coupled receptors, plays a major role in disease progression. We are also assessing roles of a novel class of sphingolipids in mitochondrial dysfunction and intrinsic cell death. Moreover, our basic research addresses production of ceramides, key sphingolipid players in cell senescence, apoptosis, autophagy, and other processes highly relevant to cancer.

Research keywords

Animal models,Apoptosis,Autophagy,Bioinformatics,Cell signaling,Inflammation,Lipid signaling,Metabolism,Obesity,Signal transduction,Translational science

Published research

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Awards and honors

Award for Outstanding Research, 1995, Furman University Biology Department