The research of the Conover Lab focuses on the regulation and biological actions of the Insulin-like Growth Factors (IGFs). These important cell and tissue growth and survival factors affect essentially every system and function in the body. As we learn the basics about the IGFs, the receptors that mediate their effects, and the IGF binding proteins (IGFBPs) and IGFBP proteases that impact IGF action -- and the complex interactions among these components -- we can begin to understand the role the IGF system plays in normal physiology and disease processes. The ultimate goal is to harness this information and develop novel diagnostics/treatments for human disorders.
Current work in the laboratory revolves around a newly discovered (by us) IGFBP protease. This protease was originally identified in 1974 as an abundant protein in the plasma of pregnant women and, hence, was named pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A (PAPP-A). We now are finding that PAPP-A plays a critical role, outside of pregnancy, in amplifying local IGF action during fetal development, vascular injury, bone formation, and aging. We have generated a line of mice that have the gene for PAPP-A “knocked out”, which has been and continues to be a valuable model for investigating the physiology and pathophysiology of PAPP-A. We also have ongoing clinical studies on the use of PAPP-A as a marker of acute coronary syndromes, findings that we first reported in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2001.