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IGF Biology

Contact: Professor Jan Frystyk, 


IGF Biology

Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and IGF-2 are proteins with high sequence similarity to insulin. The two growth factors resemble insulin and they participate in glucose regulation. However, the primary function of IGF-1 and IGF-2 is to regulate fetal and post-natal growth and development.

IGF-1 and IGF-2 are part of a complex system that is often referred to as the IGF system, which besides IGF-1 and IGF-2 consists of three cell-surface receptors (the IGF-1 receptor, the IGF-2 receptor and the insulin receptor), a family of six high-affinity IGF-binding proteins (IGFBP-1 to IGFBP-6), as well as IGFBP degrading enzymes, whereof PAPP-A and PAPP-A 2 (pregnancy-associated plasma protein A and A2) are the most well-described proteases.

Besides controlling growth and glucose metabolism, the IGF-system is involved in cancer, atherosclerosis and aging processes.

Research areas

At Department of Endocrinology, Odense University Hospital, research in IGF biology focuses on:

1. Aging

Research indicates that the IGF-system signaling plays a role in the control of aging and life span. It is suspected that IGF-1 is important in evolutionarily conserved mechanisms that control life span. Yet, most data are based on animals. Therefore, we now perform human aging studies in collaboration with researchers from the Danish Aging research Center at SDU (Professor Kaare Christensen et al.).

2. Cancer

The IGFs are believed to stimulate multiple kinds of cancers, e.g. ovary and breast cancer. Our research focuses on PAPP-A and IGF-2. PAPP-A is highly expressed in fat tissues, where the enzyme activates the IGFs. When the IGFs are activated in proximity of a cancer, this may promote cancer growth. To improve the understanding of PAPP-A and IGF-2 as key partakers in cancer, we are currently studying PAPP-A and IGF-2 in breast cancer.

3. Methodology

Much of our research is based on the development of novel assays. To date, we have developed more than 20 different assays, hereof 6 new ones. We use the assays in our clinical research. Many of our assays are unique, and this has fueled collaborations with researchers from all over the world.

4. Heart diseases

PAPP-A is suspected of promoting cardiovascular disease. Therefore, we are performing clinical studies, aiming to clarify whether and how PAPP-A is promoting atherosclerosis in humans.



Last Updated 16.03.2020