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

nce 1974 for his research into how the hypothalamus regulates the pituitary gland in the control of reproduction, said it has long been known that dopamine produced by the hypothalamus inhibits prolactin secretion. However, in the case of breastfeeding, a nursing baby will provide enough prolactin-releasing stimuli to inhibit the mother's dopamine so that she can produce prolactin and subsequently breast milk. About 20 years ago, Freeman found that oxytocin could also stimulate prolactin secretion.

Clarifying the role and mechanisms through which oxytocin interacts with dopamine to regulate prolactin secretion has important ramifications for the treatment of disorders, including infertility, related to prolactin's hundreds of biological actions, Freeman said.

For example, the findings could lead to the development of a new way to suppress elevated levels of prolactin that are produced by prolactinomas, which are noncancerous pitituary tumors. Women who have prolactinomas have such high levels of prolactin that it inhibits ovulation and they are unable to conceive. Drugs currently used to treat these tumors have serious negative side effects, Freeman said.

Adding a mathematician to the research team has allowed Freeman to look at his ongoing work from a new angle. He began collaborating with Bertram in 2003, with Bertram writing mathematical equations that simulated Freeman's biological data.

Traditionally, biologists develop a conceptual model of how things interact and use this conceptual model to design and interpret experiments, Bertram explained. Typically, this is a verbal model, complemented with a "box-and-arrows" diagram showing the biological players and their interactions. A mathematical model converts the diagram into differential equations, which describe how things affect each other and change over time.

"With a mathematical model, it is much easier to see if hypotheses can possibly work, and to make predic
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Contact: Marc E. Freeman
freeman@neuro.fsu.edu
850-644-3896
Florida State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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