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R. G. Edwards

The presentation made by Dr. Verbickij is important in several respects. First, it is an excellent piece of work on the immunology of pregnancy. Next, it shows how a model can be established in a non-human primate to facilitate research on clinical problems.

There has been a great amount of interest in the immunology of pregnancy in recent years. The stimulus to much of the early research was the development of methods to prevent rhesus haemolytic disease in human neonates. We are all familiar with the great progress being made in these studies following the introduction of the use of anti-Rh serum (Clarke 1968). There has been a significant reduction in the incidence of afflicted children, and this progress seems bound to continue as more experience is gained on the best ways of using the antiserum.

Yet there are still many cases of sensitised mothers carrying foetuses at risk of

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C Evans, NJ Jordan, G Owens, D Bradley, M Ludgate, and R John

OBJECTIVE: We describe an infant with surprisingly severe neonatal hypothyroidism due to transplacental passage of thyrotrophin receptor (TSH-R)-blocking antibodies (TBAb). DESIGN AND METHODS: TBAb were detected using a cell line which stably expresses the human TSH-R and a cAMP-responsive luciferase reporter by their ability to inhibit TSH-stimulated luciferase expression. Potent TBAb were detected in maternal serum and initially in the infant's serum but, in the latter, TBAb decreased over time to within the reference range by 3-4 months of age, illustrating the transient nature of this condition. RESULTS: The thyroid function of this child did not return to normal on withdrawal of thyroxine therapy at 16 months of age when he developed transient compensated hypothyroidism. CONCLUSIONS: We propose that the presence of potent TBAb in utero and in the first weeks of life may have implications for the development of a normally sized thyroid gland. We have demonstrated the presence of TBAb in the mother's milk and, as far as we are aware, this is the first such report. However, the TBAb in the milk probably did not contribute significantly to hypothyroidism in the child, given the reducing antibody titre in his circulation.

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S Bargagna, D Dinetti, A Pinchera, M Marcheschi, L Montanelli, S Presciuttini, and L Chiovato

OBJECTIVE: Evaluation of school attainments in children with congenital hypothyroidism (CH) detected by neonatal screening and treated early in life. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Text comprehension, mathematics, reading, writing and verbal and spatial memory, as indices of school learning, were evaluated in nineteen 5- to 10-year-old children with CH attending nursery or elementary school. l-Thyroxine substitution (starting dose 8-10 microg/kg body weight per day) was initiated at a mean age of 30+/-10 days of life. The control group included 298 unaffected children matched with the CH children for age and school grade. Thirty per cent of controls were classmates of CH children. Intelligence quotients (IQ), language performances and motor development were evaluated in CH children at age 5 years, and were related to their school attainments. School performances of CH children were also compared with their neonatal serum thyroxine (T4) concentration, and with the social-cultural level of the family. RESULTS: Four out of 19 (21%) children with CH, 3 in the nursery and 1 in the elementary school, displayed a generalized learning disorder. Symbol copy, geometric copy, phrase repetition, dictation writing and spontaneous writing were particularly defective in nursery school CH children, while orthographic error recognition was defective in elementary school CH children. School learning disorders in CH children were significantly correlated with a borderline-low IQ, poor language performances and a low social-cultural level of the family, but not with motor skills or neonatal T4 concentration. CONCLUSION: School attainments of early treated CH children were within the normal range in most affected cases. However, about 20% of CH children, most of them attending nursery school, showed a generalized learning disorder. Low IQ scores and poor language performances at age 5 years were associated with defective learning, mainly in CH children living in a poor social-cultural environment. In this subset of CH children, prompt initiation of speech and psychomotor rehabilitation therapy is recommended in order to prevent subsequent school learning disorders.

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C. Friderichsen

Adrenal failure in the infant or in the child – in contrast to the adult – is more frequently acute than chronic. This may possibly be due to the anatomical peculiarity that the adrenal glands at birth are comparatively large, constituting 0.2 per cent. of the body weight, as against 0.1 per cent in adults.

In childhood adrenal hemorrhages appear as two widely different syndromes.

The one is observed in the newborn: neonatal suprarenal hemorrhage, shortly after birth. This syndrome has nothing to do with infection; it was previously considered a traumatic sequela, but since this syndrome has virtually disappeared with the introduction of prophylactic vitamin K treatment during pregnancy, there is every probability that the great proportion of cases suffered from K avitaminosis, as in melena of the newborn.

The clinical picture of adrenal hemorrhage in the newborn is dominated by three symptoms: 1. Asphyxia – 2. severe cyanosis

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D T Ward, M Z Mughal, M Ranieri, M M Dvorak-Ewell, G Valenti, and D Riccardi

Objective

Loss-of-function calcium-sensing receptor (CAR) mutations cause elevated parathyroid hormone (PTH) secretion and hypercalcaemia. Although full Car deletion is possible in mice, most human CAR mutations result from a single amino acid substitution that maintains partial function. However, here, we report a case of neonatal severe hyperparathyroidism (NSHPT) in which the truncated CaR lacks any transmembrane domain (CaRR392X), in effect a full CAR ‘knockout’.

Case report

The infant (daughter of distant cousins) presented with hypercalcaemia (5.5–6 mmol/l corrected calcium (2.15–2.65)) and elevated PTH concentrations (650–950 pmol/l (12–81)) together with skeletal demineralisation. NSHPT was confirmed by CAR gene sequencing (homozygous c.1174C-to-T mutation) requiring total parathyroidectomy during which only two glands were located and removed, resulting in normalisation of her serum PTH/calcium levels.

Design and methods

The R392X stop codon was inserted into human CAR and the resulting mutant (CaRR392X) expressed transiently in HEK-293 cells.

Results

CaRR392X expressed as a 54 kDa dimeric glycoprotein that was undetectable in conditioned medium or in the patient's urine. The membrane localisation observed for wild-type CaR in parathyroid gland and transfected HEK-293 cells was absent from the proband's parathyroid gland and from CaRR392X-transfected cells. Expression of the mutant was localised to endoplasmic reticulum consistent with its lack of functional activity.

Conclusions

Intriguingly, the patient remained normocalcaemic throughout childhood (2.5 mM corrected calcium, 11 pg/ml PTH (10–71), age 8 years) but exhibited mild asymptomatic hypocalcaemia at age 10 years, now treated with 1-hydroxycholecalciferol and Ca2 + supplementation. Despite representing a virtual CAR knockout, the patient displays no obvious pathologies beyond her calcium homeostatic dysfunction.

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W Kiess, M Anil, WF Blum, P Englaro, A Juul, A Attanasio, J Dotsch, and W Rascher

The ob protein, termed leptin, is produced by adipocytes and is thought to act as an afferent satiety signal regulating weight through suppressing appetite and stimulating energy expenditure in humans and/or rodents. Insulin has been found to be a potent stimulator of leptin expression in rodents. It is unclear at present whether this insulin action is a direct or an indirect effect. To investigate whether leptin concentrations in children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes (IDDM) were related to metabolic status, body weight, body mass index and insulin treatment, we have measured leptin concentrations in serum from 13 newly diagnosed IDDM patients before the beginning of insulin treatment (8 girls, 5 boys, aged 4.7-17.5 years) and in 134 patients with IDDM during treatment (64 girls, 70 boys, aged 2.6-20.1 years) using a specific radioimmunoassay. The data from patients with diabetes were compared with normative data that were derived from a large cohort of healthy children and adolescents. Serum from children with newly diagnosed diabetes had significantly lower levels of leptin (mean 1.28+/-1.60 ng/ml, range 0.14-6.13 ng/ml) compared with healthy children (n=710) (mean 2.2 ng/ml, range 0.26-14.4ng/ml) and compared with insulin-treated children and adolescents (mean 5.18+/-5.48 ng/ml, range 0.26-29.77 ng/ml) (P<0.0001) even after adjustment for gender and body mass index (BMI). Serum leptin levels in patients with IDDM were significantly correlated with BMI (r=0.42, P<0.0001). Multiple regression analysis showed that age and BMI were significantly correlated with leptin levels, while duration of diabetes, mean HbA1c levels, insulin dose and plasma glucose, triglyceride and cholesterol levels were not. Females had higher serum leptin concentrations than males even when adjusted for BMI (P<0.0001). Surprisingly and most importantly, leptin levels in insulin-treated young adult (Tanner stage 5) patients were significantly higher than values found in the healthy nondiabetic reference population when adjusted for sex, Tanner stage and BMI. These findings suggest that leptin levels in IDDM patients show a similar dependency on adipose tissue and age as in healthy, normal children. The data provide evidence that insulin may be of importance as a regulator of serum leptin levels in vivo not only in rodents but also in humans. It is hypothesized that the elevated BMI-adjusted leptin levels in adolescents with IDDM could indicate either that these patients may be oversubstituted by the intensified insulin therapy that they are receiving or that their body composition and body fat content may differ from that of healthy adolescents in the sense that they have a relative increase in fat mass.

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M Salerno, R Militerni, S Di Maio, C Bravaccio, N Gasparini, and A Tenore

BACKGROUND: The intellectual outcome in children with congenital hypothyroidism detected by neonatal screening is generally good; however, subtle neurological dysfunctions, subnormal IQ, or both, have been reported. OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the intellectual outcome in 12-year-old patients with congenital hypothyroidism, detected by neonatal screening, in an attempt to identify factors that may affect intellectual development. METHODS: The intelligence quotient (IQ) of 40 children with congenital hypothyroidism was evaluated at 12 years of age, using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children -- Revised, and compared with the IQ of 40 healthy siblings (control group). RESULTS: The mean IQ score (88.4+/-13.1) was not significantly different from that of the control group (93.4+/-10.7). Thirteen patients showed subnormal IQ score (72.4+/-4.9) compared with their siblings (86.7+/-9.6; P<0.0001) and with the other patients (96.1+/-9.6; P<0.0001). The low IQ score was associated with lower serum concentrations of thyroxine at diagnosis, poor treatment compliance during follow-up and lower familial IQ. Interviews with parents of children with congenital hypothyroidism revealed that a refusal to acknowledge the disease was linked to poor attention to the child's emotional life and to poor treatment compliance in some cases (11%). CONCLUSION: Even though the mean IQ score in patients with congenital hypothyroidism falls within normal for the control population, low IQ scores may be present in patients with severe hypothyroidism, inadequate compliance to replacement therapy during follow-up and poor parental pedagogic attitude.

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S Bellone, F Prodam, S Savastio, D Avanzo, A Pagani, L Trovato, G E Walker, G Genoni, and G Bona

Context

Ghrelin is a peptide with multiple functions that circulates in acylated (AG) and unacylated (UAG) forms. However, the role of ghrelin in neonates (NN) remains to be clarified.

Objective

The aim of this study was to determine ghrelin concentrations of the two forms in NN to clarify their biological roles. As such, ghrelin levels at birth were compared with those in later life.

Setting and design

Tertiary Care Center. In this cross-sectional study, we evaluated AG, UAG, AG/UAG ratio, and insulin levels in venous cord blood from NN and in fasted normal weight (NW) and obese (OB) children, both prepubertal and pubertal.

Subjects

We studied 82 NN, 82 NW, and 58 OB children.

Results

AG levels were lower in NN than in NW and OB children (P<0.0001), more specifically the prepubertal NW and OB children (P<0.0001). UAG levels were higher in NN than in NW and OB children (P<0.0001). Therefore, the AG/UAG ratio was lower in NN than in NW and OB children (P<0.0001). NN showed insulin levels similar to NW and lower than OB children (P<0.0001). At birth UAG was positively correlated with AG (Pearson: 0.425; P<0.0001) and negatively with insulin (−0.253; P<0.02). In NW and OB, UAG and AG were positively correlated to each other and negatively correlated with insulin and body mass index (−0.566; P<0.0001).

Conclusions

NN compared with children, showed higher UAG and lower AG levels. The AG/UAG ratio showed a very different profile in NN, being lower than in NW and OB children, thus suggesting a different metabolic function for the two forms in NN. Further studies are needed to clarify the exact role of the different ghrelin forms in NN.

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Susan M. Scott, Carmela Guardian, Cathy Rogers, Pam Angelus, and Sher Werner

Abstract.

We have previously demonstrated that changes in urinary epidermal growth factor/creatinine ratios relate to gestational age and gender. It is unclear what controls this developmental pattern although chronic renal disease and thyroid aberrations have significant effects on epidermal growth factor and creatinine excretion in childhood and in adults. Therefore, we chose to explore the effects of these disease states on epidermal growth factor excretion during the perinatal time period. We collected urine samples from 8 infants with congenital renal disease and 45 infants with low T4 and normal TSH values who 'failed' the newborn screen. In addition, 2 infants with hypothyroidism and 2 infants with neonatal Grave's disease had urine samples examined. Values were compared with the epidermal growth factor and creatinine excretion from 190 infants. We demonstrated that epidermal growth factor excretion increased earlier in gestation than does creatinine excretion. In infants with renal disease or hypothyroidism, epidermal growth factor excretion was decreased while hyperthyroidism enhanced excretion. Epidermal growth factor excretion increased with relief of an obstruction but still remained low and creatinine excretion was unchanged. We confirm that in preterm infants as in childhood there are similar effects of thyroid and renal diseases on epidermal growth factor excretion.

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Nicoletta Bisacchi, Milva Orquidea Bal, Laura Nardi, Ilaria Bettocchi, Graziana D'Addabbo, Veronica Conti, Sara Monti, Franco D'Alberton, Alessandro Cicognani, and Alessandra Cassio

Objective

To compare the psychological adjustment and behaviour of congenital hypothyroidism (CH) children and their parents with a control group.

Study design

A cross-sectional study was carried out with 84 CH subjects diagnosed by neonatal screening (range 2.7–18.6 years), subdivided into four age groups: group 1 (2–5 years); group 2 (6–10 years); group 3 (11–13 years); and group 4 (14–18 years) and was compared with an age-matched control group. Patients were assessed using two questionnaires: Child Behaviour Checklist for parents and Youth Self-Report for children over 11 years of age.

Results

In groups 1, 3 and 4, total score (TS), internalising score (IS=problems within the self) and externalising score (ES=conflicts with other people) as reported by parents were not significantly different in CH patients and in controls. In group 2, parents of CH children showed values of TS (P<0.05), IS (P<0.05), ES (P<0.05) and scores on other scales significantly higher than controls. In self-reports of groups 3 and 4, the behavioural scales were not significantly different in CH patients and in controls.

Conclusions

Paediatricians should be informed about the increased risk of the development of behavioural problems at primary school age in CH patients. At this age special attention should be paid to parental worries and anxiety. However, it can be reassuring for the patients and parents to know that the problems may be related to CH, and that they may spontaneously disappear.