Professor of Molecular Endocrinology and Molecular Genetics
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Frank A. Simmen of the Department of Dairy and Poultry Sciences has for the last 14 years pioneered the application of molecular biology to livestock models.
The major focus of this research program is the role of protein growth factors in growth and development of the domestic animal species. These investigations have focused on the insulin-like growth factor (IGF) system, a fundamental regulatory component for growth of probably all vertebrate cells. As such, this system constitutes an important target for the application of biotechnology to animal production systems for feeding the growing population, as well as to human medicine.
Simmen’s laboratory has achieved a number of important insights regarding the role of the uterine IGF system in early embryo development of pigs and ruminants. Simmen and his colleagues have shown that alterations in the normal timing and/or expression levels of uterine IGF system components may be a key contributing factor to embryo mortality. A second aspect of this research concerns the involvement of the IGF system in later stages of development. These efforts have primarily concentrated on the newborn calf and pig models, and results identified the IGF system as a target for the application of biotechnology to augment animal growth in tropical climates. Lastly, the high level of uterine IGF gene expression described for the domestic species supports the probable involvement of these factors in human uterine growth and differentiation. As an extension of the above, Simmen’s laboratory is examining the involvement of the IGF system in human uterine carcinoma cell biology.