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FSU study takes novel approach to understanding pituitary function
Date:8/3/2010

A Florida State University biologist and mathematician have joined forces to find out exactly how the brain oversees the secretion of the hormone prolactin from the pituitary gland, research that could lead to new ways to treat hundreds of disorders, including infertility.

Marc Freeman, the Lloyd M. Beidler Professor of Biological Science and Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus, and mathematics Professor Richard Bertram have received a $2.64 million, five-year renewal grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue their work. Arturo E. Gonzalez-Iglesias and Joel Tabak-Sznajder, both assistant scholar/scientists in biology at FSU, are working on experimental and mathematical aspects of the project as co-principal investigators.

"We're taking a mathematical approach to answer a biological question," Freeman said, explaining that he and his colleagues have developed a mathematical model to help them find out more about how an important area of the brain, the hypothalamus, oversees the secretion of prolactin. Primarily known for its role in stimulating the mammary gland to produce milk, prolactin actually plays a role in more than 300 functions in addition to those involving reproduction.

The researchers are testing their theory that secretion of prolactin is inhibited by dopamine and stimulated by oxytocin. In addition, the researchers hypothesize that the activities of these neurons are regulated by the hypothalamus and prolactin itself.

"There are two-way interactions here, with the hypothalamus releasing neurohormones like dopamine and oxytocin that act on pituitary cells and the pituitary cells releasing hormones that act on neurons of the hypothalamus," Bertram said. "These hormones and neurohormones are carried by the blood in contrast to communication by the brain itself, which is primarily carried by neurotransmitters released by synapses."

Freeman, who has received continuous NIH funding si
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Contact: Marc E. Freeman
freeman@neuro.fsu.edu
850-644-3896
Florida State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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