Crystal Roach was awarded the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Predoctoral Fellowship to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research (Parent F31 Diversity) through the NIH NIEHS in 2021.
The title of her research grant is "Investigating the additive impact of heat stress on zearalenone-induced ovotoxicity." The awarded grant proposal will expand current research examining the impact of the mycotoxin zearalenone during heat stress and how these environmental factors alone and in combination disrupt ovarian physiology. Zearalenone is a mycotoxin found on grain crops that mimics estradiol, eliciting endocrine-disrupting effects in consumed humans and various animal species. Heat stress is a physiological alteration to thermal homeostasis that occurs upon elevated environmental temperatures, causing health abnormalities such as leaky-gut, hyperinsulinemia, hyperprolactinemia, and infertility.
Crystal's work will examine pathways essential for ovarian maintenance, such as the PI3K-AKT, insulin signaling, steroidogenic hormone signaling, apoptosis, and alterations to whole ovary morphology and follicle number. Examination of these pathways will be with mRNA and protein through experimental techniques of RT-qPCR, western blot, and immunohistochemistry. Overall, this work will elevate current knowledge of how mycotoxins and heat stress alone and in combination alter ovarian physiology, increasing awareness among animal and human health industries.