Erin Quist, a doctoral student in the Comparative Biomedical Sciences program at North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, is the recipient of a Young Investigator Award for her research concerning the effects of pre-natal exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a widely used industrial compound.
The Young Investigator Award for Toxicologic and Industrial Pathology was presented to Dr. Quist at the first combined annual meeting of the Society of Toxicologic Pathologists, the American College of Veterinary Pathologists, and the American Society of Veterinary Clinical Pathologists in Minneapolis, MN, in October.
PFOA is an industrial surfactant that has been used to manufacture weatherproof garments, floor waxes, insulators for electric wires, stain resistant carpets, some cookware, firefighting foam, and microwave popcorn bags among other applications. The surfactant, which persists indefinitely in the environment, has been linked to potentially toxic and carcinogenic effects in animals and humans.
Quist’s research poster presentation indicates that offspring of pregnant mice exposed to PFOA exhibit alterations in genomic expression of key regulators involved in lipid metabolism, cellular proliferation pathways, and mitochondrial function. Quist suspects that with prolonged PFOA exposure these changes could lead to tumor development later in life. The connection between mitochondrial proliferation and the mechanism of carcinogenesis indicated in Quist’s research is of particular ongoing interest to other scientists.
Quist, who has a DVM degree, is conducting her studies under principal investigator Dr. Sue Fenton in the National Toxicology Program (NTP) at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). The members of Quist’s NC State Comparative Biomedical Sciences examination committee are Drs. Heather Patisaul, associate professor of biology; Sue Fenton, head of the Reproductive Endocrinology group at the NTP; John Cullen and Mac Law, professors of pathology; and David Malarkey, head of the NTP Pathology Group and adjunct assistant professor.