New study identifies the main genetic causes of autoimmune Addison’s disease

Novel genetic associations could pave the way for early interventions and personalized treatment of an incurable condition.

Scientists from the University of Bergen (Norway) and Karolinska Institutet (Sweden) have discovered the genes involved in autoimmune Addison’s disease, a condition where the body’s immune systems destroys the adrenal cortex leading to a life-threatening hormonal deficiency of cortisol and aldosterone.

Groundbreaking study

The rarity of Addison’s disease has until now made scanning of the whole genome for clues to the disease’s genetic origins difficult, as this method normally requires many thousands of study participants. However, by combining the world’s two largest Addison’s disease registries, Prof. Eystein Husebye and his team at the University of Bergen and collaborators at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden (prof. Kämpe) were able to identify strong genetic signals associated with the disease. Most of them are directly involved in the development and functioning of the human immune system including specific molecular types in the so-called HLA-region (this is what makes matching donors and recipients in organ transplants necessary) and two different types of a gene called AIRE (which stands for AutoImmune REgulator).

AIRE is a key factor in shaping the immune system by removing self-reacting immune cells. Variants of AIRE, such as the ones identified in this study, could compromise this elimination of self-reacting cells, which could lead to an autoimmune attack later in life.

Knowing what predisposes people to develop Addison’s disease opens up the possibilities of determining the molecular repercussions of the predisposing genetic variation (currently ongoing in Prof. Husebye’s lab). The fact that it is now feasible to map the genetic risk profile of an individual also means that personalised treatment aimed at stopping and even reversing the autoimmune adrenal destruction can become a feasible option in the future.

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Contact information:

Professor at the University of Bergen, Eystein Husebye – Eystein.Husebye@uib.no – cell phone +47 99 40 47 88

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

From https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-02/tuob-nsi021221.php

Past News Items: My 37-year-old daughter has Addison’s disease.

old-news

 

Because, sometimes Old News is still valid!

From Tuesday, September 16, 2008

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My 37-year-old daughter has Addison’s disease. Many doctors saw her when she was hospitalized a year ago. She had to go back to the hospital because of stomach upset, back pain and dehydration. Her skin has darkened. She was told she would be fine after she started steroids. This hasn’t happened. She is constantly sick. Do you have any good news? — L.K.

ANSWER: With Addison’s disease, the adrenal glands have stopped producing their many hormones. Those hormones include cortisone and aldosterone. Cortisone gives us energy, combats inflammation and figures into many of the body’s most important functions. Aldosterone is essential for blood pressure maintenance. Without adrenal gland hormones, the skin darkens, especially the elbow skin and the creases in the hands.

Treatment is straightforward: Replace the missing hormones. Maybe the dosage of her hormone medicines needs revision. If she’s hasn’t shortly turned the corner, she should get a second opinion from an endocrinologist, a specialist in this kind of illness.

From http://www.kilgorenewsherald.com/news/2008/0916/advice/009.html

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Given Adrenal Symptoms, Blood Test Recommended

adrenal-glands

 

Q: My husband’s recent CT scan of his stomach and digestive system revealed that he has nodules on both adrenal glands. It was suggested that he undergo a blood test to determine whether the nodules are producing hormones.

For 21 months, he has experienced high blood pressure, nausea, diarrhea, anxiety and abdominal pain. Could this be the source of his problems? If so, what course of action would you recommend?

A: The adrenal gland is responsible for the production of several essential hormones.

Tumors, or nodules, of the adrenal glands are common. They can be categorized into those that make hormones and those that don’t, and also by whether the tumors are benign or malignant.

The most common, by far, are benign, nonfunctioning tumors. These are usually discovered on an ultrasound or a CT scan obtained for some other reason.

More than 4 percent of people have an adrenal mass, and 85 percent are nonfunctional.

The symptoms that your husband has, however, raise a concern that he might have a hormone-producing tumor.

Four types of hormones are commonly produced by adrenal tumors: cortisone, aldosterone, sex hormones (estrogen or androgens) and catecholamines (epinephrine and norepinephrine).

A cortisone-producing adrenal tumor causes Cushing’s syndrome. It usually causes weight gain, especially in the abdomen; skin changes, including striae, or “stretch marks”; high blood pressure; and a predisposition to diabetes. Anxiety and abdominal pain are uncommon.

Aldosterone raises blood pressure, so a person with a functioning adrenal tumor making aldosterone usually has high blood pressure, but the other symptoms you mention for your husband aren’t common for this type of tumor.

Adrenal tumors that make epinephrine and the related norepinephrine are called pheochromocytomas. Hypertension is almost universal with this condition, and anxiety is frequently reported.

Tumors that produce sex hormones are rare, and they are present in men with androgen excess or feminization, in the case of estrogen-secreting tumors.

Although your husband’s symptoms aren’t specific for any one condition, the combination of his symptoms and adrenal nodules concerns me.

I agree with the recommendation to look for excess amounts of hormones in the blood. This can often be achieved with a simple blood test; however, a catheter is occasionally placed in the adrenal vein to sample blood coming from the gland (and its nodule) directly.

By comparing one side against the other, doctors can determine which side might be producing excess hormones.

An endocrinologist is the expert most likely to be familiar with these conditions.

Dr. Roach answers letters only in his North America Syndicate column but provides an order form of available health newsletters at http://www.rbmamail.com. Write him at 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32853-6475; or ToYour GoodHealth@med. cornell.edu.

From http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/life_and_entertainment/2015/07/27/given-adrenal-symptoms-blood-test-recommended.html

Multiple aberrant hormone receptors in Cushing’s Syndrome

Eur J Endocrinol. 2015 May 13. pii: EJE-15-0200. [Epub ahead of print]
Multiple Aberrant Hormone Receptors in Cushing’s Syndrome.

Abstract

The mechanisms regulating cortisol production when ACTH of pituitary origin is suppressed in primary adrenal causes of Cushing’s syndrome include diverse genetic and molecular mechanisms. These can lead either to constitutive activation of the cAMP system and steroidogenesis or to its regulation exerted by the aberrant adrenal expression of several hormone receptors, particularly G-protein coupled hormone receptors (GPCR) and their ligands.

Screening for aberrant expression of GPCR in BMAH and unilateral adrenal tumors of patients with overt or subclinical CS demonstrates the frequent co-expression of several receptors. Aberrant hormone receptors can also exert their activity by regulating the paracrine secretion of ACTH or other ligands for those receptors in BMAH or unilateral tumors.

The aberrant expression of hormone receptors is not limited to adrenal Cushing’s syndrome but can be implicated in other endocrine tumors including primary aldosteronism and Cushing’s disease. Targeted therapies to block the aberrant receptors or their ligands could become useful in the future.

PMID:
25971648
[PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

Adrenal insufficiency – how to spot this rare disease and how to treat it

adrenal-glandsAddison’s disease, or adrenal insufficiency, is a rare hormonal disorder of the adrenal glands that affects around 8,400 people in the UK.

The adrenal glands are about the size of a pea and perched on top of the kidneys, and affect the body’s production of the hormones cortisol and sometimes aldosterone.

When someone suffers from adrenal insufficiency, those glands aren’t producing a sufficient amount of these hormones. This can have a detrimental effect on someone’s health and well-being. But because the symptoms are similar to a host of other conditions, Addison’s disease can prove tough to isolate.

What to look out for

According to advice provided by the NHS, the symptoms in the early stages of Addison’s disease, which affects both men and women, are gradual and easy to misread as they’re similar to many other conditions.

People can experience severe fatigue, muscle weakness, low moods, loss of appetite, unintentional weight loss, low blood pressure, nausea, vomiting and salt craving.

“Symptoms are often misread or ignored until a relatively minor infection leads to an abnormally long convalescence, which prompts an investigation,” says Professor Wiebke Arlt from the Centre for Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism at the University of Birmingham.

Life-threatening condition

If Addison’s disease is left untreated, the level of hormones produced by the adrenal gland will gradually decrease in the body. This will cause symptoms to get progressively worse and eventually lead to a potentially life-threatening situation called an adrenal, or Addisonian, crisis. Signs include severe dehydration; pale, cold, clammy skin; rapid, shallow breathing; extreme sleepiness; severe vomiting and diarrhoea. If left untreated, it can prove fatal, so the patient should be admitted to hospital as an emergency.

Back to basics

To understand the disorder, it’s important to get to grips with the basics and that means understanding what the adrenal glands are – and so to the science.

“Adrenal glands have an inner core (known as the medulla) surrounded by an outer shell (known as the cortex) ,” explains Arlt.
The inner medulla produces adrenaline, the ‘fight or flight’ stress hormone. While the absence of this does not cause the disease, the cortex is more critical.

“It produces the steroid hormones that are essential for life: cortisol and aldosterone,” he adds.

“Cortisol mobilises nutrients, enables the body to fight inflammation, stimulates the liver to produce blood sugar and also helps control the amount of water in the body. Aldosterone, meanwhile, regulates the salt and water levels, which can affect blood volume and pressure.”

Why does it happen?

The disorder occurs if the adrenal glands are destroyed, absent or unable to function and failure of the glands themselves is known as primary adrenal insufficiency.

“It’s most often caused by autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system mounts an attack against its own adrenal glands,” explains Arlt.

“However it can also be caused by infection, most importantly by tuberculosis and sometimes by both adrenal glands being surgically removed.”

The pituitary effect

Another important cause is any disease affecting the pituitary gland, which is located behind the nose at the bottom of the brain.
“The pituitary is the master gland that tells the other glands in the body what to do,” continues Arlt.

“The pituitary gland produces a hormone called ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone to give it its full name), which travels in the blood stream to the adrenal glands.

“Here it acts as a signal, causing the adrenal glands to produce more cortisol. If the pituitary gland stops making ACTH, [then] cortisol production by the adrenals is no longer controlled properly and a condition called secondary adrenal insufficiency arises.”

But in most cases, aldosterone is still produced, which means that people suffering from secondary adrenal insufficiency have fewer problems than those with primary adrenal insufficiency.

Determining a diagnosis

Due to the ambiguous nature of the symptoms, a Short Synacthen Test (SST) needs to be performed in order to diagnose adrenal insufficiency.

“This measures the ability of the adrenal glands to produce cortisol in response to (the pituitary hormone) ACTH,” says Arlt. “When carrying out this test, a baseline blood sample is drawn before injecting a dose of ACTH, followed by drawing a second blood sample 30 to 60 minutes later. Failing adrenal glands will not be able to produce a certain level of cortisol.”

Getting treatment

If someone has been conclusively diagnosed with adrenal insufficiency, they should receive adrenal hormone replacement therapy as advised by an endocrinologist, a doctor specialising in hormone-related diseases.

“A normal adrenal gland does not need supplements to function properly and there is no recognised medical condition called ‘adrenal fatigue’,” warns Arlt.

“Either the adrenal gland is fine and needs no treatment or there is adrenal insufficiency due to adrenal or pituitary failure.”

So if in doubt, don’t self-diagnose but book an appointment with your GP.

For more information, visit Addison’s Disease Self-Help Group (www.addisons.org.uk) or Pituitary Foundation.

From https://home.bt.com/lifestyle/wellbeing/adrenal-insufficiency-how-to-spot-this-rare-disease-and-how-to-treat-it-11363985141306

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