Earwax may reveal how stressed you are

How stressed are you? Your earwax could hold the answer.

A new method of collecting and analyzing earwax for levels of the stress hormone cortisol may be a simple and cheap way to track the mental health of people with depression and anxiety.

Cortisol is a crucial hormone that spikes when a person is stressed and declines when they’re relaxed. In the short-term, the hormone is responsible for the “fight or flight” response, so it’s important for survival. But cortisol is often consistently elevated in people with depression and anxiety, and persistent high levels of cortisol can have negative effects on the immune system, blood pressure and other bodily functions.

There are other disorders which involve abnormal cortisol, including Cushing’s disease (caused by the overproduction of cortisol) and Addison’s disease (caused by the underproduction of cortisol). People with Cushing’s disease have abnormal fat deposits, weakened immune systems and brittle bones. People with Addison’s disease have dangerously low blood pressure.

There are a lot of ways to measure cortisol: in saliva, in blood, even in hair. But saliva and blood samples capture only a moment in time, and cortisol fluctuates significantly throughout the day. Even the experience of getting a needle stick to draw blood can increase stress, and thus cortisol levels. Hair samples can provide a snapshot of cortisol over several months instead of several minutes, but hair can be expensive to analyze — and some people don’t have much of it.

Andrés Herane-Vives, a lecturer at University College London’s Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Institute of Psychiatry, and his colleagues instead turned to the ear. Earwax is stable and resistant to bacterial contamination, so it can be shipped to a laboratory easily for analysis. It also can hold a record of cortisol levels stretching over weeks.

But previous methods of harvesting earwax involved sticking a syringe into the ear and flushing it out with water, which can be slightly painful and stressful. So Herane-Vives and his colleagues developed a swab that, when used, would be no more stressful than a Q-tip. The swab has a shield around the handle, so that people can’t stick it too far into their ear and damage their eardrum, and a sponge at the end to collect the wax.

In a small pilot study, researchers collected blood, hair and earwax from 37 participants at two different time points. At each collection point, they sampled earwax using a syringe from one ear, and using the new self-swab method from the other. The researchers then compared the reliability of the cortisol measurements from the self-swab earwax with that of the other methods.

They found that cortisol was more concentrated in earwax than in hair, making for easier analysis. Analyzing the self-swabbed earwax was also faster and more efficient than analyzing the earwax from the syringe, which had to be dried out before using. Finally, the earwax showed more consistency in cortisol levels compared with the other methods, which were more sensitive to fluctuations caused by things like recent alcohol consumption. Participants also said that self-swabbing was more comfortable than the syringe method.

The researchers reported their findings Nov. 2 in the journal Heliyon. Herane-Vives is also starting a company called Trears to market the new method. In the future, he hopes that earwax could also be used to monitor other hormones. The researchers also need to follow up with studies of Asian individuals, who were left out of this pilot study because a significant number only produce dry, flaky earwax as opposed to wet, waxy earwax.

“After this successful pilot study, if our device holds up to further scrutiny in larger trials, we hope to transform diagnostics and care for millions of people with depression or cortisol-related conditions such as Addison’s disease and Cushing syndrome, and potentially numerous other conditions,” he said in a statement.

Originally published in Live Science.

Transsphenoidal Surgery Recommended for Cushing Disease With Inconclusive or Normal MRI

In patients with a diagnosis of Cushing disease in whom magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) shows either no abnormalities or nonspecific abnormalities, surgery is preferable to medical treatment, according to study results published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

There is a consensus that the first line of treatment for Cushing disease is transsphenoidal surgery to remove the pituitary adenoma causing the disease, with an 80% remission rate following the intervention. However, in the absence of clear evidence of a pituitary adenoma on imaging, there is some controversy regarding the best treatment.

The goal of this retrospective single-center study was to assess the outcomes of surgery in patients with Cushing disease with clear evidence of a pituitary adenoma on MRI compared with outcomes in patients with inconclusive or normal MRI.

The cohort included 195 patients treated with transsphenoidal surgery between 1992 and 2018 (156 women; mean age at surgery, 41 years) classified into 4 MRI groups: 89 patients were found to have microadenoma, 18 had macroadenoma, 44 had nonspecific/inconclusive abnormalities on MRI results, and 44 had normal imaging results.

The researchers reported that MRI performance in their neuroradiology department improved with time; the proportion of inconclusive or normal MRI results decreased from 60% in 1992 to 1996 to 27% in 2012 to 2018 (P =.037).

In analyzing the influence of MRI findings on remission rates, the researchers found no significant difference among the 4 groups: remission rate was 85% for microadenomas, 94% for macroadenomas, 73% for inconclusive MRI, and 75% for negative MRI (P =.11). This finding indicates the overall percentage of patients in remission after transsphenoidal surgery is only slightly lower in those with normal or inconclusive MRI results compared with patients with clear evidence of microadenoma or macroadenoma.

There was no difference in remission rate after a microscopic vs endoscopic surgical approach (P =.16). The researchers found that endoscopic-assisted surgery allowed a higher visualization rate than microscopic-assisted surgery. Although the neurosurgeon had a better visualization rate than MRI (100% vs 72%, respectively), there were some false-positive findings; thus, positive predictive value was similar (84% vs 78%, respectively).

The study had several limitations including the retrospective design. In addition, in light of the long study duration, the researchers noted that changes in MRI technology and surgical procedures occurred over time.

The researchers proposed that after exclusion of nonneoplastic hypercortisolism, patients with Cushing disease, an inconclusive or normal MRI, and a pituitary adrenocorticotropic hormone gradient at bilateral inferior petrosal sampling be directed to an expert neurosurgeon for transsphenoidal surgery rather than treated medically.

 

Reference

Cristante J, Lefournier V, Sturm N, et al. Why we should still treat by neurosurgery patients with Cushing’s disease and a normal or inconclusive pituitary MRI [published online May 14, 2019]. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. doi:10.1210/jc.2019-00333

From https://www.endocrinologyadvisor.com/home/topics/adrenal/transsphenoidal-surgery-recommended-for-cushing-disease-with-inconclusive-or-normal-mri/

Rare Disease Day, 2016!

rare-disease-day-robin

There are events all over the world today.  What are *You* doing to raise awareness for Cushing’s, Addison’s or other rare disease you have?

Many thanks to Robin for the great graphic!

 

The USA joined Rare Disease Day in 2009, making the campaign a truly international affair. Diverse events and campaigns have been organised since then, including educational programmes in schools and a collection of photographs entitled “Handprints across America” with the Rare Disease logo across the USA. In 2013 President Barack Obama sent a letter proclaiming his support of the day. In 2015, the day was a nation-wide affair, with events everywhere from California to New York to Texas. More than 35 states participated, holding conferences, artistic events, fundraising walks, and benefit dinners. In Chicago, a “Rock Rare Diseases” event created a playlist that was featured at many hospitals on the special day.

NORD, the National Organization for Rare Disorders, is committed to the identification, treatment, and cure of rare diseases through programmes of education, advocacy, research and patient services. They can be contacted directly to help you find a patient organisation locally which may have more information about a specific rare disease or disorder. Find their contact information on the bottom of this page.

You can also get involved! Do you know of any events not listed here? Email us at rarediseaseday@eurordis.org.

On Monday, February 29th, Rare Disease Week on Capitol Hill kicks off! Hundreds of advocates from around the country will be in Washington, D.C. for a full week of events. Space remains for the Caucus Briefing on Thursday March 3rd and the Rare Artist Reception. Can’t make it to Washington D.C.? NORD is helping coordinate State House Events across the U.S.

On Wednesday, March 2nd, the EveryLife Foundation for Rare Diseases is holding a Virtual Lobby Day for advocates who cannot attend the events in D.C. The event will ask advocates to contact Congress and ask that they co-sponsor the OPEN ACT, legislation to double the number of rare disease treatments. Please share widely on social media.

On Thursday, March 3rd, the first bicameral Congressional Rare Disease Caucus briefing will be held in the Auditorium of the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center at noon. Attendees will hear from the co-chairs of the Caucus and a panel discussion featuring key thought-leaders from the patient, regulatory, and industry communities who will discuss the Rare Disease Ecosystem.

On Wednesday, March 9th, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (HELP) will hold its second hearing as part of its biomedical innovation initiative. To date, the Advancing Hope Act (Priority Review Voucher program at FDA) is scheduled for consideration. The final hearing is slated for April 6th, although no bills have been announced for consideration.

On Wednesday, March 16th, the EveryLife Foundation for Rare Diseases will hold a public webinar on newborn screening. The Foundation has just launched newborn screening legislation in California to expand and streamline screening for rare diseases.

On Wednesday, March 23rd, RDLA will hold its next monthly webinar. The agenda is OPEN! Please send suggestions for action items or policy issues to Vignesh Ganapathy at vganapathy@everylifefoundation.org.

Skeletal Maturation in Children With Cushing’s Syndrome is Not Consistently Delayed

Skeletal maturation in children with cushing syndrome is not consistently delayed: The role of corticotropin, obesity, and steroid hormones, and the effect of surgical cure.

J Pediatr. 2014 Jan 9. pii: S0022-3476(13)01500-X. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2013.11.065. [Epub ahead of print]

The Journal of Pediatrics, 01/22/2014 Clinical Article

Lodish MB, et al. – The aim of this study is to assess skeletal maturity by measuring bone age (BA) in children with Cushing syndrome (CS) before and 1–year after transsphenoidal surgery or adrenalectomy, and to correlate BA with hormone levels and other measurements. Contrary to common belief, endogenous CS in children appears to be associated with normal or even advanced skeletal maturation. When present, BA advancement in CS is related to obesity, insulin resistance, and elevated adrenal androgen levels and aromatization. This finding may have significant implications for treatment decisions and final height predictions in these children.

Methods

  • This case series conducted at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center included 93 children with Cushing disease (CD) (43 females; mean age, 12.3 ± 2.9 years) and 31 children with adrenocorticotropic hormone–independent CS (AICS) (22 females, mean age 10.3 ± 4.5 years).
  • BA was obtained before surgery and at follow-up.
  • Outcome measures were comparison of BA in CD vs AICS and analysis of the effects of hypercortisolism, insulin excess, body mass index, and androgen excess on BA.

Results

  • Twenty-six of the 124 children (21.0%) had advanced BA, compared with the expected general population prevalence of 2.5% (P < .0001). Only 4 of 124 (3.2%) had delayed BA.
  • The majority of children (76%) had normal BA.
  • The average BA z-score was similar in the children with CD and those with AICS (0.6 ± 1.4 vs 0.5 ± 1.8; P = .8865).
  • Body mass index SDS and normalized values of dehydroepiandrosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, androsteonedione, estradiol, and testosterone were all significantly higher in the children with advanced BA vs those with normal or delayed BA.
  • Fifty-nine children who remained in remission from CD had follow-up BA 1.2 ± 0.3 years after transsphenoidal surgery, demonstrating decreased BA z-score (1.0 ± 1.6 vs 0.3 ± 1.4; P < .0001).

From http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24412141

Prince George’s woman works to raise awareness about rare disease

Lanham resident to speak at Patient Education Day event about Cushing’s disease

By Sophie Petit Staff Writer
stacy

Greg Dohler/The Gazette

Lanham resident Stacey L. Hardy, a survivor of Cushing’s disease, will speak about her experience with the pituitary disorder at an upcoming event at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Stacy L. Hardy of Lanham described herself as athletic, which is why she became concerned when in 1996 she mysteriously gained 240 pounds that took five doctors 14 years to determine she had a potentially fatal disease.

Now Hardy said she wants to raise awareness among others who may unknowingly have Cushing’s disease, but are unaware of the symptoms and treatment.

It wasn’t until 2010 that Hardy, now 43, was diagnosed with the disease, a rare disorder that causes the body to release too much cortisol, the body’s stress or “fight or flight” hormone, said Gary Wand, a pituitary gland specialist at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Excess cortisol causes weight gain, especially in the stomach, extreme fatigue, muscle aches, anxiety and depression, he said.

“I didn’t even know what Cushing’s was. I was ready to just live with [the symptoms],” Hardy said, adding that by the time she was diagnosed she felt so tired she could barely move.

At 5 feet, 4 inches tall, Hardy said she reached 365 pounds during her struggle with the disease.

“We knew something for a while wasn’t right, but I never thought it would be something like that,” said Hardy’s daughter, Paij Hardy, 21, a student at Baltimore City Community College.

Just three out of every one million people are diagnosed with Cushing’s each year, said Wand, who estimates he sees 30 patients per year worldwide.

In 2011, Hardy underwent 16 hours of surgery at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore to remove four tumors from her pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain that controls the release of cortisol.

Today, she is 100 pounds lighter, with the weight still rapidly coming off, and said she is determined to serve as a lifelong support and education source for her fellow “cushies” — others with Cushing’s disease.

Hardy will speak Saturday at the Johns Hopkins Pituitary Gland Center’s fifth annual Patient Education Day, an event to raise awareness about the disease, Wand said.

Since the pituitary gland is the size of a kidney bean, Hardy underwent several brain scans before doctors, who previously suggested she might have leukemia or needed to diet and exercise more, could tell there were tumors on her gland, she said.

Hardy’s experience with delayed diagnosis and misdiagnosis is not unique, Wand said.

Cushing’s is a “subtle” disease, which is difficult to diagnose, and not everyone exhibits the same symptoms, he said.

If left untreated for more than a decade, the disease is fatal, but removing the pituitary gland tumors has proved extremely successful, Wand said.

“I’m evidence that there’s help out there,” Hardy said. “I can move. I can almost run. I can bend over and pick up a box. Oh my goodness, I can dance.”

From http://www.gazette.net/article/20130926/NEWS/130929354/1077/prince-george-x2019-s-woman-works-to-raise-awareness-about-rare&template=gazette

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