Blacksburg, Va., Aug. 9, 2000 -- One would expect a dairy science faculty member at a major research university to advance the understanding of milk synthesis and lactation physiology and increase productivity in the dairy industry. In less than 20 years, Virginia Tech dairy scientist R. Michael Akers has also greatly advanced the understanding of mammary gland development, discovered new information about growth factors, and contributed to transgenic technology worldwide.
For his long-term excellence in mammary gland research in dairy cattle and humans, Akers, has earned Virginia Tech's Alumni Award for Research Excellence. The award will be presented Sept. 20 during the university's Fall Awards Convocation. Akers also recently received the Pharmacia and Upjohn Physiology Award, presented at the American Dairy Science Association annual meeting. "It's been quite a year," he says.
One of Akers main areas of research is the hormonal regulation of mammary development in young animals in relation to stage of development, nutrition, and hormonal manipulations. His studies yielded important new knowledge concerning the role of the ovary and ovarian hormones in regulation of mammary development.
He was the first to note the absence of growth hormone-receptors in mammary tissue and was among the first to characterize the hormones associated with mammary cell growth and with differentiation of the secretory epithelial cells that make up the lining of the mammary gland.
Akers discovered that insulin-like growth factor (IGF) is produced not only in the liver and circulated in the blood stream, but is also produced locally in the mammary gland and in the connective tissue surrounding the epithelial tissue. "It is the local production of IGF-1 that regulates mammary development," he says.
He explains, "For a number of years, the focus of the lactation research program has been to elucidate mechanisms of how hormones and growth factors influence the
Contact: R. Michael Akers