The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of biosynthetic GH for the treatment of children with idiopathic short stature (ISS) in the US in 2003. Primarily, the decision was based on two studies: a randomized placebo-controlled study and a dose–response study, both demonstrating an increase in adult height over the predicted height at baseline and over placebo-treated controls by an average of 4–7 cm. Despite these data and FDA approval of GH treatment for ISS, there is still a significant controversy among paediatric endocrinologists about how, and to what extent, GH should be used in this indication. GH is clearly efficacious in several growth disorders and has the potential to alleviate debilitating short stature. However, it has been questioned whether ISS should be considered a condition warranting pharmacological treatment, whether the degree of morbidity of untreated ISS is clinically significant, and whether improved psychosocial status or well-being is achieved through GH treatment and height gain. The benefits must outweigh treatment costs and risks to justify GH treatment in ISS. The safety of GH treatment in ISS has been the main subject in two recent articles from pharmaceutical companies that conducted the pioneering studies mentioned earlier. No new safety concerns were observed in the ISS populations, but there were some limitations in study designs that prevent clinicians, their patients and families from ‘resting assured’. Studies addressing these controversial issues are needed before the widespread use of GH treatment in ISS is warranted.
Francesco Chiarelli and Maria Loredana Marcovecchio
Childhood obesity is a significant health problem that has reached epidemic proportions around the world and is associated with several metabolic and cardiovascular complications. Insulin resistance is a common feature of childhood obesity and is considered to be an important link between adiposity and the associated risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Insulin resistance is also a key component of the metabolic syndrome, and its prevalence in the paediatric population is increasing, particularly among obese children and adolescents. Several factors are implicated in the pathogenesis of obesity-related insulin resistance, such as increased free fatty acids and many hormones and cytokines released by adipose tissue.
Valid and reliable methods are essential to assess the presence and the extent of insulin resistance, the associated risk factors and the effect of pharmacological and lifestyle interventions. The two most common tests to assess insulin resistance are the hyperinsulinemic euglycemic clamp and the frequently sampled i.v. glucose tolerance test utilizing the minimal model. However, both these tests are not easily accomplished, are time consuming, expensive and invasive. Simpler methods to assess insulin resistance based on surrogate markers derived from an oral glucose tolerance test or from fasting insulin and glucose levels have been validated in children and adolescents and widely used.
Given the strong association between obesity, insulin resistance and the development of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease, prevention and treatment of childhood obesity appear to be essential to prevent the development of insulin resistance and the associated complications.
Romina P Grinspon, Carolina Habib, Patricia Bedecarrás, Silvia Gottlieb, and Rodolfo A Rey
Compensatory hypertrophy has been classically described in patients with monorchidism. However, it remains unclear whether there is a functional compensatory activity of the different cell populations. Our aim was to assess the functional capacity of the solitary testis in monorchid males from infancy through puberty in order to determine whether the remaining gonad is capable of compensating the functional activity of Sertoli and Leydig cells of the absent gonad.
In a retrospective, cross-sectional, analytical study performed at a tertiary paediatric public hospital, we included 89 boys with monorchidism and 358 healthy controls, aged 6 months–18 years. Testicular volume and circulating levels of reproductive hormones were compared between patients with monorchidism and normal boys. Serum anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) and FSH were used as biomarkers of the functional mass of prepubertal Sertoli cells, whereas serum testosterone and LH were used as biomarkers of Leydig cells.
In the vast majority of the cases, the testicular volume of monorchid boys was smaller than the sum of the volume of both testes of healthy controls. Serum AMH was lower and FSH was higher in patients with monorchidism than in controls aged <3 and >13 years. Serum testosterone and LH did not differ significantly between patients and controls.
In boys and adolescents with monorchidism, there is a dissociated capacity of the remaining testis to compensate for the absence of the other gonad: while Leydig cell function is largely compensated, Sertoli cell proliferation and function was lower than in controls.
Emilia Sbardella, Carlotta Pozza, Andrea M Isidori, and Ashley B Grossman
The transition age is the period between childhood to adulthood; it refers to a broad set of physical, cognitive and sociocultural modifications, arbitrarily defined as starting in late puberty and ending with full adult maturation. Pituitary disorders in adolescence represent a challenge that requires careful management during the transition to adult care.
Given the complexity of care of pituitary disorders in the transition age, we have reviewed the relevant medical literature focusing on aetiology, clinical manifestations, treatment strategies of GH deficiency (GHD), hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism (HH) in male and female adolescents, central hypothyroidism (CH), central adrenal insufficiency (CAI) and cranial diabetes insipidus (CDI) at this time. The objective of the present review is to provide an up-to-date evaluation of the transition period to evaluate the specific needs of adolescents with chronic pituitary disease in order to optimise their management.
We provide an overview of current clinical management of GHD, HH, CH, CAI and CDI in the transition age.
Specific changes occur in pituitary function during the transition period. A holistic approach including discussion of patients’ concerns and emotional support should constitute a key component of managing pituitary disorders in adolescence. Special transition clinics where paediatric and adult endocrinologists work together, should be increasingly created and strengthened to bridge care, to promote continuity and adherence to treatment and to limit potential negative development, metabolic, skeletal and cardiovascular sequelae of discontinuity of care among adolescents with pituitary disorders.
E Schoenau, C Land, A Stabrey, T Remer, and A Kroke
Bone densitometry is currently one of the mainstays in the evaluation of systemic bone diseases in adults and is also increasingly used to assess primary or secondary bone disorders in children and adolescents. The purpose of carrying out densitometric studies in such circumstances is to measure the densitometric indicators of bone stability. Following procedures which were established for diagnosing adult osteoporosis, a decrease in densitometric surrogates of bone stability is usually interpreted as indicating increased fracture risk. The most basic densitometric parameter is bone mineral content (BMC), which can be measured with most densitometric techniques. BMC is either defined as the mass of mineral contained in an entire bone or as the mass of mineral per unit bone length. While mineral mass can be expected to be a good surrogate for bone stability, BMC is obviously a size-dependent parameter, since small bones weigh less than big bones. This is a drawback in paediatric use, since many children and adolescents who are examined by densitometry suffer from chronic disorders and are small-for-age. Short children will have a lower BMC than their healthy age-matched peers, even if their (smaller) bones are otherwise completely normal.
Oliver Blankenstein, Marta Snajderova, Jo Blair, Effie Pournara, Birgitte Tønnes Pedersen, and Isabelle Oliver Petit
To describe real-life dosing patterns in children with growth hormone deficiency (GHD), born small for gestational age (SGA) or with Turner syndrome (TS) receiving growth hormone (GH) and enrolled in the NordiNet International Outcome Study (IOS; Nbib960128) between 2006 and 2016.
This non-interventional, multicentre study included paediatric patients diagnosed with GHD (isolated (IGHD) or multiple pituitary hormone deficiency (MPHD)), born SGA or with TS and treated according to everyday clinical practice from the Czech Republic (IGHD/MPHD/SGA/TS: n = 425/61/316/119), France (n = 1404/188/970/206), Germany (n = 2603/351/1387/411) and the UK (n = 259/60/87/35).
GH dosing was compared descriptively across countries and indications. Proportions of patients by GH dose group (low/medium/high) or GH dose change (decrease/increase/no change) during years 1 and 2 were also evaluated across countries and indications.
In the Czech Republic, GH dosing was generally within recommended levels. In France, average GH doses were higher for patients with IGHD, MPHD and SGA than in other countries. GH doses in TS tended to be at the lower end of the recommended label range, especially in Germany and the UK; the majority of patients were in the low-dose group. A significant inverse association between baseline height standard deviation score and GH dose was shown (P < 0.05); shorter patients received higher doses. Changes in GH dose, particularly increases, were more common in the second (40%) than in the first year (25%).
GH dosing varies considerably across countries and indications. In particular, almost half of girls with TS received GH doses below practice guidelines and label recommendations.
Leo Dunkel and Richard Quinton
Puberty is the period during which we attain adult secondary sexual characteristics and reproductive capability. Its onset depends upon reactivation of pulsative GNRH, secretion from its relative quiescence during childhood, on the background of intact potential for pituitary–gonadal function. This review is intended: to highlight those current practices in diagnosis and management that are evidence based and those that are not; to help clinicians deal with areas of uncertainty with reference to physiologic first principles; by sign-posting relevant data arising from other patient groups with shared issues; to illustrate how recent scientific advances are (or should be) altering clinician perceptions of pubertal delay; and finally, to emphasise that the management of men and women presenting in advanced adult life with absent puberty cannot simply be extrapolated from paediatric practice. There is a broad spectrum of pubertal timing that varies among different populations, separated in time and space. Delayed puberty usually represents an extreme of the normal, a developmental pattern referred to as constitutional delay of growth and puberty (CDGP), but organic defects of the hypothalamo–pituitary–gonadal axis predisposing to hypogonadism may not always be initially distinguishable from it. CDGP and organic, or congenital hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism are both significantly more common in boys than girls. Moreover, around 1/3 of adults with organic hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism had evidence of partial puberty at presentation and, confusingly, some 5–10% of these subsequently may exhibit recovery of endogenous gonadotrophin secretion, including men with Kallmann syndrome. However, the distinction is crucial as expectative (‘watch-and-wait’) management is inappropriate in the context of hypogonadism. The probability of pubertal delay being caused by organic hypogonadism rises exponentially both with increasing age at presentation and the presence of associated ‘red flag’ clinical features. These ‘red flags’ comprise findings indicating lack of prior ‘mini-puberty’ (such as cryptorchidism or micropenis), or the presence of non-reproductive congenital defects known to be associated with specific hypogonadal syndromes, e.g. anosmia, deafness, mirror movements, renal agenesis, dental/digital anomalies, clefting or coloboma would be compatible with Kallmann (or perhaps CHARGE) syndrome. In children, interventions (whether in the form or treatment or simple reassurance) have been historically directed at maximising height potential and minimising psychosocial morbidity, though issues of future fertility and bone density potential are now increasingly ‘in the mix’. Apubertal adults almost invariably harbour organic hypogonadism, requiring sensitive acknowledgement of underlying personal issues and the timely introduction of sex hormone replacement therapy at more physiological doses.
Irina Bacila, Neil Richard Lawrence, Sundus Mahdi, Sabah Alvi, Timothy D Cheetham, Elizabeth Crowne, Urmi Das, Mehul Tulsidas Dattani, Justin H Davies, Evelien Gevers, Ruth E Krone, Andreas Kyriakou, Leena Patel, Tabitha Randell, Fiona J Ryan, Brian Keevil, S Faisal Ahmed, and Nils P Krone
There is limited knowledge on the onset of comorbidities in congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) during childhood. We aimed to establish the health status of children with CAH in the UK.
Design and methods
This cross-sectional multicentre study involved 14 tertiary endocrine UK units, recruiting 101 patients aged 8–18 years with classic 21-hydroxylase deficiency and 83 controls. We analysed demographic, clinical and metabolic data, as well as psychological questionnaires (Strengths and Difficulties (SDQ), Paediatric Quality of Life (PedsQL)).
Patient height SDS in relation to mid-parental height decreased with age, indicating the discrepancy between height achieved and genetic potential height. Bone age was advanced in 40.5% patients, with a mean difference from the chronological age of 1.8 (±2.3) years. Patients were more frequently overweight (27%) or obese (22%) compared to controls (10.8% and 10.8%, respectively, P < 0.001). No consistent relationship between glucocorticoid dose and anthropometric measurements or hormonal biomarkers was detected. A small number of patients had raised total cholesterol (3.0%), low HDL (3.0%), raised LDL (7.0%) and triglycerides (5.0%). SDQ scores were within the ‘high’ and ‘very high’ categories of concern for 16.3% of patients. ‘School functioning’ was the lowest PedsQL scoring dimension with a median (interquartile range) of 70 (55–80), followed by ‘emotional functioning’ with a median of 75 (65–85).
Our results show an increased prevalence of problems with growth and weight gain in CAH children and suggest reduced quality of life. This highlights the urgent need to optimise management and monitoring strategies to improve long-term health outcomes.
Eva Al Taji, Heike Biebermann, Zdeňka Límanová, Olga Hníková, Jaroslav Zikmund, Christof Dame, Annette Grüters, Jan Lebl, and Heiko Krude
Objective: Mutations in NKX2.1, NKX2.5, FOXE1 and PAX8 genes, encoding for transcription factors involved in the development of the thyroid gland, have been identified in a minority of patients with syndromic and non-syndromic congenital hypothyroidism (CH).
Design: In a phenotype-selected cohort of 170 Czech paediatric and adolescent patients with non-goitre CH, including thyroid dysgenesis, or non-goitre early-onset hypothyroidism, PAX8, NKX2.1, NKX2.5, FOXE1 and HHEX genes were analysed for mutations.
Methods: NKX2.1, NKX2.5, FOXE1 and HHEX genes were directly sequenced in patients with syndromic CH. PAX8 mutational screening was performed in all 170 patients by single-stranded conformation polymorphism, followed by direct sequencing of samples with abnormal findings. The R52P PAX8 mutation was functionally characterized by DNA binding studies.
Results: We identified a novel PAX8 mutation R52P, dominantly inherited in a three-generation pedigree and leading to non-congenital, early-onset, non-goitre, non-autoimmune hypothyroidism with gradual postnatal regression of the thyroid size and function. The R52P PAX8 mutation results in the substitution of a highly conserved residue of the DNA-binding domain with a loss-of-function effect. Conclusions: The very low frequency of genetic defects in a population-based cohort of children affected by non-goitre congenital and early-onset hypothyroidism, even in a phenotype-focussed screening study, suggests the pathogenetic role of either non-classic genetic mechanisms or the involvement of genes unknown so far. Identification of a novel PAX8 mutation in a particular variant of non-congenital early-onset hypothyroidism indicates a key function of PAX8 in the postnatal growth and functional maintenance of the thyroid gland.
P G Murray, A Read, I Banerjee, A J Whatmore, L E Pritchard, R A Davies, J Brennand, A White, R J Ross, and P E Clayton
Leptin deficiency caused by mutations within the leptin gene (LEP) results in severe early onset obesity, hypogonadism, pubertal delay and immune system abnormalities. Constitutional delay in growth and puberty (CDGP) is a common condition seen in paediatric clinics, in which children present with delayed growth and puberty but usually also have a slim body habitus. We hypothesized that LEP variants may play a role in the phenotype seen in CDGP.
To screen a group of children with CDGP for pathogenic sequence variants in LEP.
Patients and methods
Denaturing HPLC was used to screen for LEP sequence variants in DNA samples from 78 children with CDGP (predominantly white males) and 112 control subjects. DNA fragments with a WAVE pattern deviant from wild type were directly sequenced. A STAT3 luciferase reporter assay in human embryonic kidney (HEK293) cells transiently transfected with the leptin receptor was used to test activity of mutant leptin.
One child with CDGP was identified to be heterozygous for a novel missense variant (c.68C>G), which results in a proline to arginine substitution (p.P23R). This sequence variant was not identified in any of the other control subjects, but was identified in his mother who shared a similar phenotype of slim body habitus, reduced appetite and pubertal delay (menarche aged 15 years). The leptin variant showed similar stability in serum compared with wild type and did not demonstrate increased activity in an in vitro reporter gene assay.
This is the first report of a sequence variant within the LEP gene associated with reduced body mass index rather than obesity. We hypothesize that this variant has increased bioactivity in vivo.