The treatment for autoimmune Addison’s disease (AAD) has remained virtually unchanged in the last 60 years. Most patients have symptoms that are relatively well controlled with exogenous steroid replacement, but there may be persistent symptoms, recurrent adrenal crisis and poor quality of life, despite good compliance with optimal current treatments. Treatment with conventional exogenous steroid therapy is also associated with premature mortality, increased cardiovascular risk and complications related to excessive steroid replacement. Hence, novel therapeutic approaches have emerged in the last decade attempting to improve the long-term outcome and quality of life of patients with AAD. This review discusses the recent developments in treatment innovations for AAD, including the novel exogenous steroid formulations with the intention of mimicking the physiological biorhythm of cortisol secretion. Our group has also carried out a few studies attempting to restore endogenous glucocorticoid production via immunomodulatory and regenerative medicine approaches. The recent advances in the understanding of adrenocortical stem cell biology, and adrenal plasticity will also be discussed to help comprehend the science behind the therapeutic approaches adopted.
Earn H Gan and Simon H Pearce
Simon Hs Pearce, Earn H Gan, and Catherine Napier
Over the last ten years, evidence has accumulated that autoimmune Addison’s disease (AAD) is a heterogeneous disease. Residual adrenal function, characterised by persistent secretion of cortisol, other glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids is present in around 30% of patients with established AAD, and appears commoner in men. This persistent steroidogenesis is present in some patients with AAD for more than 20 years, but it is commoner in people with shorter disease duration. The clinical significance of residual adrenal function is not fully clear at the moment, but as it signifies an intact adrenocortical stem cell population, it opens up the possibility of regeneration of adrenal steroidogenesis and improvement in adrenal failure for some patients.
Earn H Gan, Katie MacArthur, Anna L Mitchell, and Simon H S Pearce
Autoimmune Addison's disease (AAD) is a rare condition with a complex genetic basis. A panel of rare and functionally defective genetic variants in the sialic acid acetylesterase (SIAE) gene has recently been implicated in several common autoimmune conditions. We performed a case–control study to determine whether these rare variants are associated with a rarer condition, AAD.
We analysed nine SIAE gene variants (W48X, M89V, C196F, C226G, R230W, T312M, Y349C, F404S and R479C) in a United Kingdom cohort of 378 AAD subjects and 387 healthy controls. All samples were genotyped using Sequenom iPlex chemistry to characterise primer extension products.
A heterozygous rare allele at codon 312 (312*M) was found in one AAD patient (0.13%) but was not detected in the healthy controls. The commoner, functionally recessive variant at codon 89 (89*V) was found to be homozygous in two AAD patients but was only found in the heterozygous state in controls. Taking into account all nine alleles examined, 4/378 (1.06%) AAD patients and 1/387 (0.25%) healthy controls carried the defective SIAE alleles, with a calculated odds ratio of 4.13 (95% CI 0.44–97.45, two-tailed P value 0.212, NS).
We demonstrated the presence of 89*V homozygotes and the 312*M rare allele in the AAD cohort, but overall, our analysis does not support a role for rare variants in SIAE in the pathogenesis of AAD. However, the relatively small collection of AAD patients limits the power to exclude a small effect.