Prof receives grant for ovary research

Tomy Hillers

An animal science professor at Iowa State continues her research on ovaries through a $100,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Carolyn Komar, assistant professor of animal science, said she is studying peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors, or PPARs. PPARs influence the ability of a gene to encode, or form, a protein, Komar said.

She said that after being introduced to the factors by a colleague, she started research and found they were also present in the ovary. Her work on the ovaries of animals could someday also be useful in human ovaries.

“I really am not sure what they are doing in the ovary,” she said. “Some of the data I have collected so far, taken together with work by other groups, indicates that they may play a role in cellular metabolism in the ovary.”

By understanding factors involved in the basic functions of the organ, a more complete picture can be created so that genetic abnormalities may be identified, Komar said.

“Since the PPARs can influence gene expression, it is important to understand what genes they are influencing in the ovary,” she said. “When we understand what genes the PPARs regulate, then we can look at whether these genes are involved in ovarian pathologies and, if so, how.”

By regulating the PPARs in turn, Komar hopes to regulate genes involved in ovarian functions. The factors’ roles in other tissues would suggest that they may be related to events associated with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and ovarian cancer, Komar said.

There are three types of PPARs: alpha, delta and gamma.

Alpha is thought to be responsible for breaking up harmful fats within the bloodstream and gamma is involved in the process of fat cell formation.

“Little is yet known about PPAR delta,” Komar said.

Komar said the award was given to her in July of last year, while she was employed by the medical hospital at the University of Kentucky.

Thane Peterson, director of the Office of Sponsored Programs, said the number of grants given to research at Iowa State by the National Institutes of Health is low.

“Typically these grants are given to colleges with medical hospitals,” Peterson said.