Summary: Researchers found a rare vasopressin deficiency, a deficiency of oxytocin in patients with pituitary gland disease. This deficit may explain symptoms such as anxiety and social interaction problems that persist despite treatment.

The findings suggest that disorders affecting vasopressin production may simultaneously affect oxytocin production due to close physical proximity. This finding could pave the way for new treatments, especially for conditions suspected to involve oxytocin deficiency, such as autism.

Key facts:

  1. Vasopressin and oxytocin are structurally similar hormones produced in the brain.
  2. Researchers discovered oxytocin deficiency in patients with this rare vasopressin deficiency when clinically relevant oxytocin deficiency was first recognized.
  3. This finding opens up new treatment options for conditions suspected to be linked to oxytocin deficiency, such as autism.

Source: University of Basel

The hormone oxytocin is important for social interaction and emotional regulation. A lack of this hormone was previously suspected in various diseases such as autism, but it has never been proven.

Now, for the first time, researchers from the University of Basel and the University Hospital of Basel have succeeded in demonstrating a lack of oxytocin in patients with vasopressin deficiency caused by pituitary gland disease.

This finding may be the key to developing new treatments.

The hormones oxytocin and vasopressin are produced in the same area of ​​the brain and are very similar in structure. Patients with abnormal vasopressin deficiency are unable to concentrate their urine and lose liters of water as a result. To compensate for this loss, they are obliged to drink up to 10 liters or more per day.

These symptoms can be treated without difficulty with a nasal spray or synthetic vasopressin tablet.

However, even with this treatment, many patients report anxiety, have problems with social relationships, or show impaired emotional awareness.

These symptoms can be caused by a lack of oxytocin, which is known as the “bonding hormone”.

“Because the production of the two hormones is so close anatomically, disorders that cause vasopressin deficiency can also damage the neurons that produce oxytocin,” explains endocrinologist and lead author Dr. Sihan Attila. Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.

Oxytocin boosters only work on health

However, oxytocin is difficult to measure and a “stimulation test” is required to obtain reliable results. This test stimulates the release of oxytocin, that is, the release of the hormone in the body. MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methamphetamine), also known as ecstasy, is one such stimulant.

Researchers from the University of Basel and the University Hospital of Basel, led by Professor Mirjam Christ Krain, found that the level of oxytocin in healthy people is 8.5 times higher after a single dose of MDMA, but remains unchanged in those with vasopressin deficiency. . This provides strong evidence that their production of oxytocin is also impaired.

As expected, the increase in oxytocin in healthy people after taking a dose of MDMA was associated with an increase in social behavior and sensitivity, along with a decrease in anxiety symptoms. On the other hand, patients with vasopressin deficiency did not show any changes in these areas.

“The lack of oxytocin in people with vasopressin deficiency at least partially explains this finding,” says endocrinologist Attila.

Treatment with oxytocin?

“Thus, these results confirm for the first time the existence of a clinically relevant oxytocin deficiency. This discovery opens up new therapeutic possibilities and may be interesting for other disorders such as autism,” says Mirjam Chris-Crane, the study leader and deputy head of endocrinology at the University Hospital.

In addition, the results contribute to a deeper understanding of oxytocin as a key hormone for social-emotional effects.

The same researchers in the Department of Clinical Research are currently planning a larger study to investigate whether treatment with oxytocin can improve psychotic symptoms in patients with vasopressin deficiency.

So neuroscience and autism research news

Author: Naomi Kern.
Source: University of Basel
Contact: Noemi Kern – University of Basel
Image: Image credited to Neuroscience News.

Preliminary study: The findings are shown in Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology

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