Steroid hormones include the sex hormones testosterone, oestrogen and progesterone, known as sex steroids, and the stress hormone cortisol (a corticosteroid). Steroid hormones control the development of sexual characteristics, as well as influence the immune system, metabolism, blood pressure, and salt and water balance in the body.
Testosterone is the principal male sex hormone, also known as androgens. Androgens are produced primarily by the testes in men, but are also produced in women by the ovaries.
These findings suggest that maternal androgen excess in PCOS mothers may increase the risk of anxiety disorders in their offspring via changes in brain function. In her current project, Stener-Victorin is looking at how the combination of maternal obesity and high levels of androgens affect placental and foetal function, and offspring, over several generations. In addition to studying mice models, she works on human studies that investigate global expression profiles of genes and DNA methylation in adipose tissue and fat to gain deeper understanding of the underlying pathophysiology.
She and her collaborators have shown that women on treatment for antenatal depression have higher levels of corticotrophin-releasing hormone, which may be of relevance for the increased risk of preterm birth in these women. Her research group has also demonstrated that women with postpartum depression have higher levels of the steroid hormone cortisol.
Today, Prof. Christ-Crain focuses on the hormone vasopressin, which regulates body water. Measuring levels of vasopressin is difficult because of the small size of the molecule and its very short half-life. However, vasopressin levels are mirrored by those of copeptin. Professor Christ-Crain's data show that measurement of copeptin can be used for the differential diagnosis of patients with polyuria-polydipsia syndrome, a condition characterized by abnormally large production of urine and excess thirst. Measurement of copeptin levels can be used for faster diagnosis of these patients and to provide more targeted treatment.