Dr Frank Grutzner
Head, Mammalian Reproduction group (School of Molecular and Biomedical Science)
The Mammalian Reproduction Research Group uses a comparative approach to investigate the evolution and relevance for human disease of key genes involved in mammalian reproduction and metabolic control. The Group studies gene evolution in mammalian species distantly related to humans - monotremes in particular. Monotremes (platypus and echidna) have an extraordinary sex chromosome system that can reveal novel genes and pathways involved in sex determination and differentiation in all mammals, including humans. Monotremes have also undergone radical changes to their stomach anatomy and physiology, accompanied by massive loss of genes involved in digestion. As a result, studying monotremes provides the opportunity to identify the role of key genes involved in stomach function and metabolism in humans and other mammals. Such research may lead to the identification of new therapeutic targets for metabolic diseases such as diabetes.
During 2012, the Group discovered that genes involved in a non-protein coding RNA pathway are expressed in the mammalian ovary and in human ovarian cancer. Current research activities are aimed at better understanding the role of this pathway in ovarian function, in ovulation and in the origin and progression of ovarian cancer. The group also applied a combination of genetic and biochemical approaches to investigate the function of platypus genes in metabolic control, focusing in particular on insulin release in the pancreas.