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Massimo Scacchi, Cecilia Invitti, Angela I Pincelli, Claudio Pandolfi, Antonella Dubini, and Francesco Cavagnini

Scacchi M, Invitti C, Pincelli AI, Pandolfi C, Dubini A, Cavagnini F. Lack of growth hormone response to acute administration of dexamethasone in anorexia nervosa. Eur J Endocrinol 1995;132:152–8. ISSN 0804–4643

High plasma growth hormone (GH) levels, associated with abnormal hormone responses to provocative stimuli, point to an altered GH secretion in anorexia nervosa. The GH-releasing effect of acutely administered glucocorticoids, firmly established in normal subjects, has not been reported in these patients. In this study, acute iv administration of 4 mg of dexamethasone, compared with saline, increased plasma GH in nine normal-weight women (AUC 848.2 ± 127.95 vs 242.8 ± 55.35 μg·l−1·min−1, p < 0.05, respectively) but was ineffective in 11 anorectic patients (AUC 3271.8 ± 1407.11 vs 2780.0 ± 1162.04 μg·l−1·min−1, NS). After dexamethasone, a significant lowering of plasma cortisol was observed in normal women (AUC 25367.0 ± 3128.43 vs 47347.1 ± 4456.61 nmol·l−1·min−1, after dexamethasone and saline, respectively, p < 0.05), but not in anorectic patients (AUC 77809.3 ± 8499.92 vs 78454.9 ± 7603.62 nmol·l−1·min−1, NS). In both groups, plasma adrenocorticotrophin (ACTH) displayed a significant decrease after dexamethasone (AUC 523.6 ± 92.08 vs 874.2 ± 115.03 pmol·l−1·min−1, p < 0.05, after dexamethasone and saline, respectively, in anorectic patients and 377.5 ± 38.41 vs 1004.9 ± 200.51 pmol·l−1·min−1, p < 0.05, in controls). However, when considering the hormonal decremental areas, a significant dexamethasone-induced ACTH inhibition, compared to saline, was evidenced in normal (ΔAUC –414.4 ± 65.75 vs 222.9 ± 42.40 pmol·l−1·min−1, p < 0.05) but not in anorectic women (ΔAUC –254.2 ± 96.92 vs 2.9 ± 132.32 pmol·l−1·min−1, NS). In conclusion, compared to normal subjects, anorectic patients do not display an increase of plasma GH levels and show a lower degree of inhibition of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis following acute iv administration of dexamethasone. This observation broadens the array of the abnormal GH responses to provocative stimuli in anorexia nervosa and supports the existence, in these patients, of a decreased hypothalamic somatostatin secretion, although the possibility of a reduced tissue sensitivity to glucocorticoids cannot be excluded.

Francesco Cavagnini, 2nd Chair of Endocrinology, University of Milan, Istituto Scientifico Ospedale San Luca, Centro Auxologico Italiano, via Spagnoletto 3, 20149 Milano, Italy

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Cecilia Invitti, Francesca Pecori Giraldi, Antonella Dubini, Martina De Martin, and Francesco Cavagnini


The adrenal participation in the pathogenesis of polycystic ovary syndrome is still under debate. In order to reappraise androgen and glucocorticoid secretion in this disease, we measured serum androstenedione, dehydroepiandrosterone-sulphate, total and free testosterone, sex hormone-binding globulin, LH, FSH, PRL, cortisol, corticosteroid-binding globulin, and urinary free cortisol in 45 women with polycystic ovary syndrome and 27 controls, subdivided in obese and normal-weight subjects. Androstenedione, total and free testosterone were significantly increased, whereas sex hormone-binding globulin tended to be reduced in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome compared with controls, reaching a significant difference between obese patients and matched controls. Free testosterone and sex hormone-binding globulin were significantly increased and reduced, respectively, in obese compared with normal-weight patients. Urinary free cortisol and serum corticosteroid-binding globulin were significantly increased (p<0.001) and decreased (p<0.005), respectively. Urinary free cortisol exceeded the upper limit of the normal range in 50% of our patients. No appreciable differences were found in PRL and cortisol levels. Besides confirming a hyperandrogenic state, our findings point to an overactivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis with subsequent diminution of corticosteroid-binding globulin in polycystic ovary syndrome. They also indicate that urinary free cortisol is not a reliable index in differentiating polycystic ovary syndrome from Cushing's disease.

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Leila Danesi, Massimo Scacchi, Anna M Miragoli, Angela I Pincelli, Antonella Dubini, Anna T Maiolo, Francesco Cavagnini, and Elio E Polli

Danesi L, Scacchi M, Miragoli AM, Pincelli AI, Dubini A, Maiolo AT, Cavagnini F, Polli EE. Induction of follicle maturation and ovulation by gonadotropin administration in women with β-thalassemia, Eur J Endocrinol 1994;131:602–6. ISSN 0804–4643

The objective of this paper was to assess the ability of gonadotropin administration to induce ovarian steroidogenesis, follicle maturation and ovulation in hypogonadal women affected by β-thalassemia. Thirteen hypogonadal thalassemic women underwent a test with gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), with estimation of serum follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) levels. They were then administered human menopausal gonadotropin (hMG) for a period ranging from 11 to 15 days with a total dose variable from 3300 to 4200 IU. In each patient, the initial dosage of 300 IU daily, adopted for the first 9 days, was modified subsequently according to the ovarian morphology, as shown by serial echographic examinations and by serum estradiol levels. In those patients in whom a dominant follicle was evidenced and the occurrence of pregnancy could be excluded, induction of ovulation was attempted by administration of 10000 IU of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). All patients displayed a reduced LH and FSH rise in response to GnRH. Upon hMG administration, they exhibited echographic evidence of follicular growth with a clear-cut increase of serum estradiol, which peaked between the 9th and the 16th day from the start of treatment. In two out of three patients in whom a dominant follicle developed, ovulation was induced successfully by hCG injection, as shown by the increase of serum progesterone and by the ultrasonographic demonstration of a corpus luteum. This study has shown that, by proper pharmacological stimulation, the steroidogenic function of the gonads and even ovulation can be reinstated in hypogonadal thalassemic women. A hypothalamic/pituitary defect appears to be the main cause of amenorrhea in these patients, although a condition of ovarian resistance is also likely.

Francesco Cavagnini, 2nd Chair of Endocrinology, University of Milan, Istituto Scientifico Ospedale San Luca, Centro Auxologico Italiano, via Spagnoletto 3, 20149 Milano, Italy

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Irene Campi, Ilaria Bulgarelli, Antonella Dubini, Giovanni Battista Perego, Elena Tortorici, Camilla Torlasco, Erminio Torresani, Lorenzo Rocco, Luca Persani, and Laura Fugazzola


Alterations in thyroid function tests (TFTs) have been recorded during SARS-CoV-2 infection as associated to either a destructive thyroiditis or a non-thyroidal illness.


We studied 144 consecutive COVID-19 patients admitted to a single center in intensive or subintensive care units. Those with previous thyroid dysfunctions or taking interfering drugs were excluded. Differently from previous reports, TSH, FT3, FT4, thyroglobulin (Tg), anti-Tg autoantibodies (TgAb) were measured at baseline and every 3–7 days. C-reacting protein (CRP), cortisol and IL-6 were also assayed.


The majority of patients had a normal TSH at admission, usually with normal FT4 and FT3. Low TSH levels were found either at admission or during hospitalization in 39% of patients, associated with low FT3 in half of the cases. FT4 and Tg levels were normal, and TgAb-negative. TSH and FT3 were invariably restored at the time of discharge in survivors, whereas were permanently low in most deceased cases, but only FT3 levels were predictors of mortality. Cortisol, CRP and IL-6 levels were higher in patients with low TSH and FT3 levels.


Almost half of our COVID-19 patients without interfering drugs had normal TFTs both at admission and during follow-up. In this series, the transient finding of low TSH with normal FT4 and low FT3 levels, inversely correlated with CRP, cortisol and IL-6 and associated with normal Tg levels, is likely due to the cytokine storm induced by SARS-Cov-2 with a direct or mediated impact on TSH secretion and deiodinase activity, and likely not to a destructive thyroiditis.