TWU's Cantu earns NIH grant

Daisy Cantu

Sept. 29, 2022 – DENTON – The National Institutes of Health has awarded a grant to Daisy Cantu, a graduate student in the Texas Woman's University biology division.

The grant of $34,635 is for Cantu's project, "Sex Differences in Stress-Exacerbated Orofacial Pain in a Rat Model of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder."

"Psychological stress disproportionally exacerbates temporomandibular joint disorder in women compared to men," Cantu said in her description of the research. "Most of the preclinical studies investigating stress-exacerbated orofacial pain are exclusively conducted on male rats. Our data in female rats indicates that stress exacerbates inflammatory orofacial pain to a greater degree when compared to males.

"My research focuses on understanding the role of psychological stress on pain disorders like temporomandibular joint disorder," Cantu said. "Stress is reported to be a trigger and a result of TMJD pain, creating a vicious cycle that can exacerbate pain in men and women. TMJD and stress are reported to be more prevalent in women, but the role of stress on TMJD pain and its underlying mechanisms are unclear. It's possible that there are undetected neurobiological differences between men and women in the effects of stress on pain processing.

Cantu's findings could provide insight for managing TMJD pain in women.

Cantu, who grew up in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, and attended high school in Laredo, Texas, earned her bachelor's degree from TWU. During her junior year, Cantu joined associate professor Dayna Averitt’s pain neurosensory lab, where she began participating in research.

“I really enjoyed studying the brain,” Cantu said. “Dr. Averitt’s lab completely changed the course of my career, setting me on a new path in my education and future profession.”

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Page last updated 3:02 PM, September 29, 2022