Endocrine Abstracts (2001) 2

Society for Endocrinology Medal Lecturer

Iain Clarke, Prince Henry's Institute of Medical Research, Clayton, Australia Abstract

Dr Clarke is a leading researcher in the field of neuroendocrinology. In the early 1980s he and Mr James Cummins (a neurosurgeon at St Vincent's Hospital) developed methodology to enable the collection of blood from the hypophseal portal system. This permitted the first ever measurements of real-life secretions of brain hormones under normal conditions. This enabled modelling of the neuroendocrine system and the development of therapies for a number of clinical disorders. Importantly, knowledge of the normal patterns of secretion of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (in a pulsatile mode) allowed clinicians to design replacement therapy for hypogonadotropic hypogonadal patients; such treatment is still in use. Insight into the means by which the brain regulates the stress and thyroid axes was also seminal work. Using the portal access model and other surgical models, novel information was obtained regarding the regulation of prolactin secretion. For example, Dr Clarke's laboratory was the first to demonstrate that the pars tuberalis of the pituitary gland plays an important role in the regulation of prolactin secretion and this prompted vigorous worldwide research in this area. Most recently Dr Clarke has turned his attention to the issue of appetite regulation. Using models of long-term alteration in bodyweight, he has defined alterations in gene expression within the brain that occur with over- and under-nutrition, providing new perspectives on the sequelae of changes in adiposity. Significant sex differences in the response to leptin (a hormone produced by fat) have prompted a new series of studies that are in progress. He has published more than 300 scientific papers, including a number of review articles and chapters in books.

Dr Clarke has received a number of awards for his contributions to the field of neuroendocrinolgy, the most notable being the Woodward Prize for Excellence in Research in Neuroscience (1992) and a Senior Fulbright Award (1997).

A notable achievement in the recent past is that Dr Clarke has secured a commercial agreement with Chemicon (USA) and Silenus (Melbourne) to produce antisera on a large scale. This agreement provides annual income in excess of $200,000 to the State of Victoria, in perpetuity. This agreement helps to fund ongoing research in his laboratory.

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