An Amusing Look At Hormones And The Pituitary Gland

A moment in the scheming mind of Professor Pituitary and his sidekick, Dr. Hypothalamus!! And… their minions, the Hormonal Kitties!

Low Oxytocin Levels Linked to Reduced Empathy

People suffering from low levels of oxytocin perform worse on empathy tasks, according to new research presented at the 2016 Society for Endocrinology annual conference.

The research suggests that hormone replacement could improve the psychological well-being of those living with low levels, according to researchers at the University of Cardiff.

Oxytocin is often referred to as the “love hormone” due to its role in human behavior, including sexual arousal, recognition, trust, anxiety, and mother-infant bonding. It is produced by the hypothalamus — an area of the brain that controls mood and appetite — and stored in the pituitary gland.

For the study, researchers investigated empathic behavior in people who they suspected of having reduced oxytocin levels due to one of two medical conditions caused in response to pituitary surgery.

The study assessed 20 people with cranial diabetes insipidus (CDI). In CDI, the body has reduced levels of ADH, a chemical also produced in the hypothalamus and structurally very similar to oxytocin.

The researchers also assessed 15 people with hypopituitarism (HP), a condition in which the pituitary gland does not release enough hormones.

These two patient groups were compared to a group of 20 healthy people.

The researchers gave all participants two tasks designed to test empathy, both relating to the recognition of emotional expression. They also measured each group’s oxytocin levels and found that the 35 CDI and HP participants had slightly lower oxytocin compared to the healthy people. The researchers noted that a larger sample is required to establish statistical significance.

The researchers also discovered that the CDI and HP groups performed significantly worse on empathy tasks, compared to the healthy control group. In particular, CDI participants’ ability to identify expressions was predicted by their oxytocin levels — those with the lowest levels of oxytocin produced the worst performances, according to the study’s findings.

“This is the first study which looks at low oxytocin as a result of medical, as opposed to psychological, disorders,” said Katie Daughters, lead researcher. “If replicated, the results from our patient groups suggest it is also important to consider medical conditions carrying a risk of low oxytocin levels.”

“Patients who have undergone pituitary surgery, and in particular those who have acquired CDI as a consequence, may present with lower oxytocin levels,” she continued. “This could impact on their emotional behavior, and in turn affect their psychological well-being. Perhaps we should be considering the introduction of oxytocin level checks in these cases.”

The researchers said they hope to expand their study to further replicate and confirm their findings. They added that the study presents only preliminary results, and has not been peer reviewed.

Source: Society for Endocrinology

From http://psychcentral.com/news/2016/11/06/low-oxytocin-levels-linked-to-reduced-empathy/112110.html

All About the Pituitary Gland

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The pituitary gland stimulates all the other endocrine glands to produce their own hormones. It produces a number of hormones including Human Growth Hormone (hGH) responsible for bone and muscle growth and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) which stimulates the production of the female egg or male sperm.  It is found at the base of the brain.
What can happen when it goes wrong?

When the pituitary gland doesn’t produce enough ‘trigger’ hormones, hypopituitarism occurs. Most often, it is caused by a benign tumor of the pituitary gland although it can also be caused by infections, head injury or even stroke.

Symptoms?
Excessive tiredness, reduced fertility, irregular periods, weight gain, poor libido, dry skin and headaches.
Treatment?
If caused by a tumor, surgery will be required to remove it. Regardless of whether this is successful, daily hormones will then be required to replace those no longer produced.

Adapted from http://www.hippocraticpost.com/palliative/whole-story-hormones/

Interview with a Doctor on Trans-Sphenoidal surgery

Dr. Julius July: Neurosurgeon at the Neuroscience Center of Siloam Hospitals Lippo Village Karawaci 

A SIMPLE AND QUICK WAY TO REMOVE TUMORS VIA SURGERY THROUGH THE NOSTRIL

The mention of the word “surgery” evokes images of lengthy and elaborate procedures that involve delicate acts of cutting, abrading or suturing different parts of the body to treat an injury or disease.

This widely-held perception has led some to develop an irrational fear of surgery–especially if an operation involves a critical organ, such as the heart, or in the case of trans-sphenoidal surgery, a procedure used to remove tumors from the hormone-regulating pituitary gland located at the base of the brain.

Though the procedure has been around in different forms for the past three decades, individuals who may be in dire need of it might fear or avoid it.

To demystify this specific method of surgery, J+ spoke with Julius July, a neurosurgeon at the Neuroscience Center of Siloam Hospitals Lippo Village Karawaci. He has performed hundreds of trans-sphenoidal operations on patients throughout the country since 2008. Below is our interview, edited for length and clarity.

Tell us more about trans-sphenoidal surgery.

The goal is to extract benign tumors of the pituitary gland that are called pituitary adenoma. The pituitary gland controls different secretions of hormones. If there is a tumor and it grows large, one of the consequences could be that a patient goes blind. It can also lead to symptoms manifesting in other parts of the body due to excess hormone production, depending on the type of hormone affected by the tumor.

What does a neurosurgeon do during the procedure?

As neurosurgeons we use an endoscope with a camera attached to it and insert the instrument through the nostril. We go through the right nostril and through the sinus to reach the tumor and remove it. Once that is done, we add a coagulant to prevent bleeding. The operation takes only an hour to 90 minutes to perform and is minimally invasive. People come in and expect the surgery to last five or six hours. They hear “surgery” and fearfully assume that. But modern trans-sphenoidal surgery is simple, only lasting one to two hours.

What’s the prognosis after surgery?

In 80 percent of cases, all it takes is one surgery to remove a tumor. However, some need repeated intervention, while others require radiation. Some tumors want to invade their surroundings. In these cases, the surrounding area is a blood vessel. We can’t totally remove that type of tumor. But such cases are rare. If a patient needs more than two operations, we usually recommend radiation, because who wants to have a lot of operations?

What are the symptoms of pituitary adenoma?

Symptoms depend on whether a tumor affects hormone production or the optic nerve. The principal complaints are related to a patient’s field of vision becoming narrower. If there is a tumor in the pituitary gland area, the eye can’t see too widely. The tumors would press on the optic nerve, which leads to the periphery of your vision getting blurry.

If the tumor affects hormone production, the symptoms depend on the specific type of hormone that the tumor has affected. Different hormones have different roles. Excess prolactin hormones can lead to women–or even men–producing breast milk. If a woman who isn’t pregnant is producing breast milk, they need to be checked. The basic ingredient of milk is calcium. Without treatment, the woman will have porous bone problems. It also leads to reduced libido. If men have an excess of these prolactin hormones, they cannot get erections and will become impotent.

How does these problem develop in the first place?

Mutations lead to the creation of these benign tumors. Some things make mutations easier, such as smoking or exposure to radiation or specific chemicals. It could be anything. You could have eaten tofu and it had formalin or some meatballs with borax. Preventing it obviously requires a healthy lifestyle, but that’s easier said than done.

It’s not just one thing that causes these tumors.

Who does this pituitary tumor affect?

It affects both genders equally, more or less. The risk of pituitary adenoma compared to all other types of brain tumors is 15 percent. Children are also affected, though the condition is statistically much more likely to afflict adults. Of my patients, two in 70 would be children.

How is it diagnosed?

The doctor will check your hormones after a blood test and identify the problem. For example, if the condition affects growth hormones, a person can grow to two meters or more in height, which leads to gigantism. Alternatively, a condition could lead to horizontal growth–a bigger tongue, bigger fingers and changing shoes each month. The tongue can become so big that it causes breathing problems. Growth hormone overproduction is like a factory with the machine working overtime. As a result, a person’s life span can get cut in half. The heart works overtime, they keep growing and they die prematurely.

How many operations do you perform a year?

I’ve been doing these operations since 2008. I handle 60 to 70 such surgeries a year.

Any notable success stories to share?

One patient from Central Java came in blind. I examined him and said that there was no way we could save his vision by removing his tumor. He was crying. He had been blind for a week. But if no action was taken, the tumor would keep growing and would lead him to becoming crippled. At the end, he decided that he still wanted the operation. Surprisingly though, after the operation, he was able to see. Three months later, he was driving and reading newspapers. It was a fascinating case.

From http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2016/07/30/well-being-trans-sphenoidal-surgery.html

Pituitary tissue grown from human stem cells releases hormones in rats

Researchers have successfully used human stem cells to generate functional pituitary tissue that secretes hormones important for the body’s stress response as well as for its growth and reproductive functions. When transplanted into rats with hypopituitarism–a disease linked to dwarfism and premature aging in humans–the lab-grown pituitary cells promoted normal hormone release. The study, which lays the foundation for future preclinical work, appears June 14 in Stem Cell Reports, a publication of the International Society for Stem Cell Researchers.

“The current treatment options for patients suffering from hypopituitarism, a dysfunction of the pituitary gland, are far from optimal,” says first study author Bastian Zimmer of the Sloan Kettering Institute for Cancer Research. “Cell replacement could offer a more permanent therapeutic option with pluripotent stem cell-derived hormone-producing cells that functionally integrate and respond to positive and negative feedback from the body. Achieving such a long-term goal may lead to a potential cure, not only a treatment, for those patients.”

The pituitary gland is the master regulator of hormone production in the body, releasing hormones that play a key role in bone and tissue growth, metabolism, reproductive functions, and the stress response. Hypopituitarism can be caused by tumors, genetic defects, brain trauma, immune and infectious diseases, or radiation therapy. The consequences of pituitary dysfunction are wide ranging and particularly serious in children, who can suffer severe learning disabilities, growth and skeletal problems, as well as effects on puberty and sexual function.

Currently, patients with hypopituitarism must take expensive, lifelong hormone replacement therapies that poorly mimic the body’s complex patterns of hormone secretion that fluctuates with circadian rhythms and responds to feedback from other organs. By contrast, cell replacement therapies hold promise for permanently restoring natural patterns of hormone secretion while avoiding the need for costly, lifelong treatments.

Recently, scientists developed a procedure for generating pituitary cells from human pluripotent stem cells–an unlimited cell source for regenerative medicine–using organoid cultures that mimic the 3D organization of the developing pituitary gland. However, this approach is inefficient and complicated, relies on ill-defined cellular signals, lacks reproducibility, and is not scalable or suitable for clinical-grade cell manufacturing.

To address these limitations, Zimmer and senior study author Lorenz Studer of the Sloan Kettering Institute for Cancer Research developed a simple, efficient, and robust stem cell-based strategy for reliably producing a large number of diverse, functional pituitary cell types suitable for therapeutic use. Instead of mimicking the complex 3D organization of the developing pituitary gland, this approach relies on the precisely timed exposure of human pluripotent stem cells to a few specific cellular signals that are known to play an important role during embryonic development.

Exposure to these proteins triggered the stem cells to turn into different types of functional pituitary cells that released hormones important for bone and tissue growth (i.e., growth hormone), the stress response (i.e., adrenocorticotropic hormone), and reproductive functions (i.e., prolactin, follicle-stimulating hormone, and luteinizing hormone). Moreover, these stem cell-derived cells released different amounts of hormone in response to known feedback signals generated by other organs in the body.

To test the therapeutic potential of this approach, the researchers transplanted the stem cell-derived pituitary cells under the skin of rats whose pituitary gland had been surgical removed. The cell grafts not only secreted adrenocorticotropic hormone, prolactin, and follicle-stimulating hormone, but they also triggered appropriate hormonal responses in the kidneys.

The researchers were also able to control the relative composition of different hormonal cell types simply by exposing human pluripotent stem cells to different ratios of two proteins: fibroblast growth factor 8 and bone morphogenetic protein 2. This finding suggests their approach could be tailored to generate specific cell types for patients with different types of hypopituitarism. “For the broad application of stem cell-derived pituitary cells in the future, cell replacement therapy may need to be customized to the specific needs of a given patient population,” Zimmer says.

In future studies, the researchers plan to further improve the protocol to generate pure populations of various hormone-releasing cell types, enabling the production of grafts that are tailored to the needs of individual patients. They will also test this approach on more clinically relevant animal models that have pituitary damage caused by radiation therapy and receive grafts in or near the pituitary gland rather than under the skin. This research could have important implications for cancer survivors, given that hypopituitarism is one of the main causes of poor quality of life after brain radiation therapy.

“Our findings represent a first step in treating hypopituitarism, but that does not mean the disease will be cured permanently within the near future,” Zimmer says. “However, our work illustrates the promise of human pluripotent stem cells as it presents a direct path toward realizing the promise of regenerative medicine for certain hormonal disorders.”

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The researchers were supported by the New York State Stem Cell Science and the Starr Foundation. The work was further supported in part by the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute.

Stem Cell Reports, Zimmer et al.: “Derivation of diverse hormone-releasing pituitary cells from human pluripotent stem cells” http://www.cell.com/stem-cell-reports/fulltext/S2213-6711(16)30060-1

Stem Cell Reports, published by Cell Press for the International Society for Stem Cell Research (@ISSCR), is a monthly open-access forum communicating basic discoveries in stem cell research, in addition to translational and clinical studies. The journal focuses on shorter, single-point manuscripts that report original research with conceptual or practical advances that are of broad interest to stem cell biologists and clinicians. Visit http://www.cell.com/stem-cell-reports. To receive Cell Press media alerts, please contact press@cell.com.

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