The President’s Adrenals
Biological Sciences Department
California State Polytechnic University at Pomona
This case study presents a brief account of the life of John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States (1961-63). Kennedy suffered from Addison's disease, an endocrine disorder characterized by inadequate production of adrenal steroid hormones, such as cortisol and aldosterone. Although attempts were made during his lifetime to hide his condition since it was thought to threaten his political career, the disease contributed to health complications that often left him weak or in pain. By answering questions about Kennedy’s symptoms, students consider the physiological consequences of inadequate hormone secretion and apply their understanding of negative feedback regulation to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal gland axis. The case would be appropriate for use in undergraduate classes in human anatomy and physiology, human physiology, animal physiology, or endocrinology.
- Diagram the hypothalamic and pituitary regulation of cortisol synthesis and release.
- Describe the role of negative feedback in controlling cortisol release.
- Differentiate between primary and secondary hyposecretion of a hormone.
- Recognize Addison’s disease as a cause of cortisol hyposecretion.
- List the clinical symptoms of Addison’s disease.
- Relate the symptoms of Addison’s disease to loss of the physiological functions of cortisol and aldosterone.
- Explain how low plasma concentrations of cortisol alter negative feedback regulation of the hypothalamus and pituitary.
- Predict the physiological consequences of chronic exposure to exogenous glucocorticoid drugs.
KeywordsAddison’s disease; adrenal insufficiency; primary hyposecretion; adrenal gland; cortisol; aldosterone; ACTH; HPA axis; negative feedback
Educational LevelUndergraduate lower division
Type / MethodsDirected, Discussion
Subject HeadingsPhysiology | Biology (General) | Medicine (General) |
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