Another major branch of our research is investigation of various environmental toxins, such as glyphosate (the main component of Roundup herbicide), bisphenol A (BPA) (a common component of plastics), dimercaptopropanesulfonic acid (DMPS) (a metal chelator used in metal poisoning treatment and some spa therapies), that have been associated with carcinogenesis and how they affect female reproduction. A key trend in our results shows that these compounds deplete zinc from oocytes, embryos, and ovaries. Zinc is an essential trace metal required in many processes, including fertilization, maintenance of key antioxidants, and cell arrangement maintenance. In concert with zinc depletion, these toxins also drive overproduction of ROS in oocytes, causing substantial damage to DNA and DNA-associated cell machinery. To help protect against these effects of environmental toxins, our research has recommended approaches such as zinc supplementation and supplements to increase antioxidant activity. These results also help women with conditions such as celiac disease, alcoholism, and diabetes, which also cause infertility through oxidative stress and metal deficiency.
Our lab has also studied the effect of certain dietary substances on female reproduction. For instance, our lab has found that D-galactose and its metabolites galactitol and galactose 1-phosphate deteriorated oocyte quality. Disturbances in spindle structure, altered chromosomal arrangement, enhanced ROS, and increased apoptosis of cumulus cells were all observed in oocytes treated with D-galactose or its metabolites. Many of these factors also predict future developmental competence after in vitro fertilization. These findings are important to women with classic galactosemia, who develop premature ovarian insufficiency despite proper dietary restriction, in both further understanding the pathology of classic galactosemia and developing treatments to ameliorate fertility defects associated with it.