The NICHD conducts and supports a wide range of research activities to learn more about those at risk for Cushing’s syndrome (including people with certain genetic disorders), how to determine when someone has the syndrome, and how best to treat it and manage its long-term health consequences. Through the NICHD’s many research projects, the institute aims to improve the following1:
- Screening and diagnosis. Cushing’s syndrome has symptoms in common with many other conditions and can be difficult to detect. Targeted screening of individuals with conditions that pose particular diagnostic difficulties—such as obesity or pregnancy—and improving diagnostic tools will enhance detection of the syndrome and facilitate earlier treatment. For example, the NICHD is investigating whether it is effective to introduce widespread screening for Cushing’s syndrome in people with the metabolic syndrome. The syndrome describes a group of factors, such as extra weight around the middle and insulin resistance, that can increase a person’s risk for diabetes and heart disease. Although screening tests in this population identify some people with Cushing’s syndrome, they also misidentify many others. It is important to determine whether widespread screening is helpful overall.
- Genetic disorders of the adrenal glands. Some genetic disorders, such as Carney complex and multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome, raise an individual’s likelihood of developing Cushing’s syndrome. NICHD researchers are working to understand the genetic and molecular mechanisms of disorders that affect the adrenal cortex and pituitary gland and, ultimately, to prevent or cure them.
- Post-treatment health. Although most people with Cushing’s syndrome can be cured and their cortisol levels will revert to normal, some individuals might take a while to recover to their previous levels of health, and they might never regain their full strength in some areas. NICHD researchers are investigating various aspects of post-treatment health, and their discoveries will help guide physicians in ensuring that patients receive additional help, as needed, in the years after their initial Cushing’s syndrome treatment.
- NICHD. (2011). 2011 Annual Report of the Division of Intramural Research. Retrieved April 8, 2012, from http://annualreport.nichd.nih.gov. [top]