Hypopituitarism, also known as an underactive pituitary gland, is a condition that affects the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland, in which the pituitary gland does not produce normal amounts of some or all of its hormones. Symptoms of hypopituitarism vary depending on which hormone is no longer being produced by the pituitary gland.
Treatments for hypopituitarism also vary. If the condition is caused as the result of a pituitary tumor, surgery may be needed for treatment. In some cases, hormone therapy is what’s needed to effectively treat hypopituitarism.
However, in the November 2011 issue of Nature, a new report shows promise for the future of hypopituitarism treatment. Japanese scientists successfully treated hypopituitary mice by transplanting pituitary gland tissue they grew from embryonic mice stem cells. After the hypopitiutary mice received the transplanted cells, they began to produce hormones they were previously missing.
Researchers used the mouse stem cells arranged in a three dimensional culture and grew pituitary tissue over the course of three weeks from that culture. The resulting tissue contained all five cell types found in a normal pituitary gland.
Using such technology as a possible treatment for humans suffering from hypopituitarism is not an immediately viable option. Scientists caution that is it unlikely that pituitary tissue grown in labs will behave like functioning pituitary glands. The hope is that someday, treatment for patients with pituitary disorders will be feasible via growing pituitary tissues from the patient’s own tissue.
“If and when the technology becomes developed for humans, it will require the skills of an experienced team of a pituitary endocrinologist and neurosurgeon working together with other specialists in a dedicated pituitary center to fully realize the potential opportunity for patients with pituitary hormonal deficiency,” says Dr. Nelson M. Oyesiku, Co-Director Emory Pituitary Center.
For more information on hypopituitarism, or the endocrinology & neurosurgery treatment teams at Emory, visit the Emory Pituitary website.