Thursday, April 9, 2009

Prolactin Elevation in Autoimmune Disease

Image by iprole

The more I read and learn about autoimmune disease,  I become increasingly amazed at the complexity of our bodies. I envision the mechanisms of autoimmunity as being an enormous puzzle with pieces flying fast and furiously around our vascular, lymph, neurological, and hormonal systems. And everywhere else, it seems. 

My latest "well, gooolllleee" experience came while reading about the relationship between prolactin and autoimmune disease. Prolactin? 

Prolactin, a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland, is most commonly thought to be responsible for milk production in females. While this is true, it is also responsible for many other functions, as described in this article by Colorado State :
It is difficult to point to a tissue that does not express prolactin receptors, and although the anterior pituitary is the major source of prolactin, the hormone is synthesized and secreted in many other tissues. Overall, several hundred different actions have been reported for prolactin........A considerable amount of research is in progress to delineate the role of prolactin in normal and pathologic immune responses.
This study, published in 2007 from Wolfson Medical Center, Israel, explores the relationship between elevated prolactin levels, also called hyperprolactinemia, and autoimmune disease:
The autoimmune diseases are more common in females. The sex hormones have an important role in this gender bias, mainly estrogen and prolactin (PRL) which modulate the immune response. PRL is secreted from the pituitary gland and other organs and cells mainly the lymphocytes. PRL has an immunostimulatory effect and promotes autoimmunity. (HPRL) is observed in multi-organ and organ specific autoimmune diseases like systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Sjogren's syndrome (SS), Hashimoto's thyroiditis (HT) and multiple sclerosis (MS). There is no consistent correlation between PRL levels and disease activity.
My first thought after reading this information was, well, let's just block the action of prolactin, then. Which doesn't make a lot of sense when reviewing all the other functions for which prolactin is responsible, and in noting that there does not seem to be a direct correlation between prolatctin levels and disease activity, as quoted above. You can read more about the prolactin-autoimmune link here

Someday, all the pieces of this difficult puzzle will finally come together, each in it's proper place. I can't wait.


Wendy said...

There's also that new set of studies showing a positive correlation between lupus and the birth control pill. I used to feel I had terrible PMS, and self-treated with ibuprofen for years, though my gynecologist would say "you can't have PMS on the pill". It was confusing. I tried the slow-release BC implants in my arm, but the "PMS"- like symptoms got worse, so had them removed after a year or two. Last spring (I think) there was an article in The New Yorker mentioning the effect of inflammation and its concomitant circulating cytokines (of which prolactin is one) on research mice. The females stopped nest-building behaviors. Males would grow withdrawn, no longer taking interest in new mice introduced to their cage. It sounded familiar to me, that lack of social drive, or interest in cleaning-- two behaviors that reverse into overdrive in me when I start a short-term methylprednisolone burst to quell inflammation. (You can find the article on TNY website by searching for 'mice' and 'cytokines'. It's actually on the topic of hangovers.)
I've wondered about prolactin in particular since I first noticed an approximate 4-week cycle between my typical brief, 2-day periods of relief from constant malaise and fatigue. So, this post really caught my attention. It is a fascinating, complex puzzle indeed.

buy propecia online said...

So true our bodies and mind are so complex thay in fact we still make discoveries that blow our minds. It is a never ending process of discoveries. Great post by the way.

Anonymous said...

A little late in the piece but- do you think this could impact a woman's ability to cope with the demand and supply relationship required for breastfeeding? FOr example, once my babies reach approximately 4 weeks of age, my milk supply drops very suddenly, and simply does not increase enough to sustain them without use of supplements (which in turn diminishes the demand for breastmilk.) I have Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease with 'baby lupus' like symptoms, as well as many others.