Hair Cortisol in the Evaluation of Cushing Syndrome

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Mihail Zilbermint, M.D.
Endocrinologist, Office of the Scientific Director

Mihail Zilbermint, M.D. Endocrinologist, Office of the Scientific Director Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development National Institutes of Health

Eunice Kennedy Shriver
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
National Institutes of Health 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Diagnosing Cushing Syndrome is often difficult and challenging.  Diagnosing hypercortisolemia, could require the use of a combination of any of these tests: 24-hour free urine cortisol monitoring, an overnight dexamethasone suppression test, and measurement of late night salivary cortisol.  Cortisol levels may change daily, requiring that testing be repeated.  Undiagnosed and untreated Cushing Syndrome greatly increases morbidity and mortality risk.

Cortisol levels can be detected in hair samples.  Much like hemoglobin A1C is a long-term indicator of blood glucose levels, efforts have been made to determine if hair cortisol could serve as a long-term measure of the body’s glucocorticoid levels.  We sought to compare the results of cortisol levels for Cushing Syndrome patients with data from data on cortisol in hair segments, to gain further information on the role of sampling hair cortisol as an initial or supportive method for diagnosing Cushing Syndrome.

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High Cortisol Levels in Hair May Be Linked To Lower IVF Success

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Kavita Vedhara FAcSS Professor of Health Psychology Division of Primary Care School of Medicine University Park,N ottingham

Prof. Kavita Vedhara

Kavita Vedhara FAcSS
Professor of Health Psychology
Division of Primary Care
School of Medicine
University Park,Nottingham

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: There has been a longstanding interest in the role of the hormone cortisol in fertility, because of its potential to affect the functioning of the biological systems that influence both conception and pregnancy.

This interest has extended to IVF, with researchers exploring the relationship between levels of the hormone and pregnancy since the advent of the treatment in the late 1970s.

However, a recent review showed that the relationship between cortisol and pregnancy in IVF was unclear. A number of reasons were highlighted for this, including that all of the studies to date had relied on short-term measures of the hormone measured in blood, saliva, urine and sometimes follicular fluid. Such measures can only capture hormone levels over a matter of minutes and hours. Such ‘snapshots’ are unable to give us an accurate picture of the levels of hormone over longer periods of time. This is important because any clinically relevant effects of cortisol on fertility are only likely to occur in the context of long-term changes in the hormone.

In recent years it has become possible to measure long-term levels of cortisol in hair. Cortisol is deposited in the hair shaft and because human hair grows, on average, 1cm per month, a 3cm sample of hair closest to the scalp can tell us about levels of cortisol in the previous 3 months.

We used the development of this technique to examine whether long term levels of cortisol (as measured in hair), or short term levels of cortisol (as measured in saliva) could predict whether or not women going through IVF would become pregnant. If you are trying to obtain a perfect cortisol balance, I use this product that helps to do just that.

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