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July 15, 2015

Some Women with PCOS May Have Adrenal Disorder

A subgroup of women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a leading cause of infertility, may produce excess adrenal hormones, according to an early study by researchers at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and other institutions.

PCOS is a group of symptoms related to high levels of hormones known as androgens. In many women with the condition, the ovaries contain numerous small, cyst-like sacs. Women with PCOS may have irregular, missing or prolonged menstrual periods, excessive facial and body hair, insulin resistance and problems with fertility. Treatment may include drugs that block androgens and oral contraceptives, which contain the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

“Traditionally, treatment for PCOS has included modifying ovarian hormones,” said Dr. Constantine Stratakis of NICHD and senior author of the study. “Our findings indicate that a subgroup of patients could conceivably benefit from modification of adrenal hormones as well.”

The study was published online in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. The study’s first author is Dr. Evgenia Gourgari of Georgetown University, who was a research fellow at NICHD when the study was conducted.

Manufactured Stem Cells To Advance Clinical Research

Researchers supported by NIH have developed a clinical-grade stem cell line, which has the potential to accelerate the advance of new medical applications and cell-based therapies for millions of people suffering from such ailments as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, diabetes and muscular dystrophy. The stem cells were developed by isolating human umbilical cord blood cells following a healthy birth and coaxing them back into a pluripotent state, or one in which they have the potential to develop into any cell type in the body. Cells developed in this manner are called induced pluripotent stem cells. With NIH support, these cells were manufactured by Lonza, Walkersville, Md., and described in a publication by Dr. Behnam Baghbaderani and colleagues in Stem Cell Reports.

These clinical-grade stem cells are different from the more common laboratory-grade cells—those used in most scientific publications—because unlike laboratory-grade stem cells, clinical-grade stem cells can be used for clinical applications in humans. The distinctive feature of this cell line is that it was developed under current good manufacturing practices (cGMP), a set of stringent regulations enforced by the Food and Drug Administration that ensures each batch of cells produced will meet quality and safety standards required for potential clinical use. The NIH Common Fund’s regenerative medicine program supported the manufacturing of this cell line.

“The Common Fund aims to accelerate research progress by developing new tools and resources for the biomedical research community through strategic investments in high-impact research,” said Dr. James M. Anderson, director of NIH’s Division of Program Coordination, Planning and Strategic Initiatives, which houses the Common Fund. “Since meeting cGMP guidelines is very time-intensive and costly, providing access to clinical-grade stem cells removes a significant barrier in the development of cell-based therapies.”

Almost 10 Million U.S. Adults Report Misusing Prescription Opioids

Bottles of Prescription Opioids

Nonmedical use of prescription opioids more than doubled among adults in the United States from 2001-2002 to 2012-2013, based on a study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Nearly 10 million Americans, or 4.1 percent of the adult population, used opioid medications—a class of drugs that includes OxyContin and Vicodin—in 2012-2013 without a prescription or not as prescribed (in greater amounts, more often or longer than prescribed) in the past year. This is up from 1.8 percent of the adult population in 2001-2002.

More than 11 percent of Americans report nonmedical use of prescription opioids at some point in their lives, a considerable increase from 4.7 percent 10 years prior.

The number of people who meet the criteria for prescription opioid addiction has substantially increased during this timeframe as well, with 2.1 million adults (0.9 percent of the U.S. adult population) reporting symptoms of “nonmedical prescription opioid use disorder,” according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition.

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