Meet the Researcher - Victoria Krajcz

Breakout Room: 3

Victoria_KrajczResearcher Name: Victoria Krajcz
Title of Research: Understanding the Effects of Atrazine on Human Keratinocytes
Division Representing: Biology
Institution: University of Detroit Mercy
Institution Location: Michigan
Home State: Michigan
District Number: 13
Advisor/Mentor: Nicole Najor
Funding Source: NIH

Research Experience:  
I am a ReBUILDetroit scholar which is a program funded by the NIH that gives underrepresented students a chance to do research. I have been doing research for all four years of my undergraduate degree. I first started out but finding and isolating bacteriophage and then annotating its DNA. This work was then published in the American Society of Microbiology. I then went on to work in the lab of Dr. Nicole Najor. My original project focused on the Cop9 interaction with desmosomes and how this promotes differentiation we were taking a closer look at how Cullin interacted with Cop9. While working in the same lab I took over a graduating students project where I studied the effects of Atrazine on human keratinocytes. In the lab I have learned the techniques Western blotting, cell culture, ImageJ, as well as starting to learn the basics of immunofluorescent. When I am not working in the lab I tired to get volunteer opportunities. I have volunteered at many different homeless shelters. I have helped prepare as well as hand out food to the homeless. This allowed me to interact and get to know some of the people of the city of Detroit. 

Presentation Experience: 
 I have presented at the ASCB conference on two separate occasions once in San Diego and once in Washington DC. I was able to present my research multiple times at both of these conferences. and  I have also presented many times at many conferences hosted at my school as well as Wayne State University. I have been awarded a presentation award at a presentation done with students all around my school.

Significance of Research:       
Atrazine is the second most used herbicide in the United States and the most common chemical detected in American groundwater. Despite being banned from various European countries, the EPA has deemed concentrations below 3.0 parts per billion (ppb) to be safe for use. Atrazine can enter the body via inhalation, ingestion, or penetration where it is then converted into metabolites in the bloodstream.  While it is known that atrazine can have an impact on many organ systems, its effect on the skin remains understudied. The importance of this research is underscored by the fact that the skin is our first line of defense and primary means to combat toxins, ultraviolet radiation, and mechanical insults. The goal of this research is to identify whether exposure to atrazine could promote a cancerous phenotype in human keratinocytes. We hypothesize that higher levels of atrazine may act as a carcinogen, affecting cell cycle, adhesion, and morphology. To identify this effect, keratinocytes were exposed to varying concentrations of atrazine that exceeded the EPA's standards. Immunofluorescence was employed to visualize DNA double-stranded breaks with the marker gH2AX, a version of the H2A protein that composes the histone octamer and gets phosphorylated upon DNA damage. Additional cell cycle markers and DNA damage pathways were investigated in keratinocytes treated with atrazine. Our preliminary data suggests that that keratinocytes treated with increasing atrazine concentrations induces DNA damage, alters cell morphology, and causes changes in cell adhesion. Knowledge gained from this work will provide new insights into a previously understudied area.   

Uniqueness of Research: 
This research can help with the environmental aspects of Atrazine coming into contact with humans.