Benutzerspezifische Werkzeuge

Background & Overview

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Research Overview

This research project has relevance to the unprecedented incidence of obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disorders faced by modern society. A fundamental common denominator in these disorders with an impressive overlap of pathophysiology and signalling pathways is the endocrine stress system, the central organ of which is the adrenal gland.

Adrenal disorders are common and contribute significantly to today’s disease burden. This fact underlies the crucial role of the secretory products of the adrenal gland the mineralocorticoids, glucocorticoids, androgens and catecholamines for physiological processes. Adrenal dysfunction not only contributes to numerous common disorders such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, but in some cases represents the primary etiologic factor. Therefore, adrenal dysregulation is both root and target of these modern stress-related disorders. Surprisingly, no network, no DFG research group, no Schwerpunktprogramm or SFB has been tackling this central theme.

The adrenal gland is the key organ in the human body coordinating endocrine stress responses , and proper adrenal function is critical for coping with environmental stimuli and disease. Adrenal disorders include tumours, developmental defects and infertility as well as syndromes causing metabolic or cardiovascular disease. Hyperfunction or hypofunction (insufficiency) of the adrenal gland affect several extra-adrenal organs and systems and may lead to life-threatening situations .

Acute Addisonian crisis involves hypotension, hypoglycaemia and shock. Catecholamine-producing tumours may cause hypertensive crisis, cardiomyopathy, stroke and multisystem organ failure, which constitute some of the most serious disorders in emergency medicine. Furthermore, adrenal dysregulation in inflammatory conditions and in critical illness such as sepsis is a frequent occurrence associated with numerous gene defects, chronic diseases and medications in a constantly growing segment of the general population predisposed to this condition.

Exploring the mechanisms of adrenal diseases in a comprehensive manner requires consideration of the essential and complex cellular communication systems within the organ “niche”. The mechanisms of adrenal dysregulation can only be elucidated on the basis of a thorough understanding of the crosstalk of the different cell systems, taking into account genetic as well as epigenetic factors. Progress in stem cell research will help to unravel mechanisms of adrenal and adrenal-related diseases.