Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Dr. Stan Van Uum

Second Advisor

Dr. Gideon Koren

Third Advisor

Dr. Michael Rieder


Cortisol is a glucocorticoid hormone secreted under normal and pathological conditions. It is typically measured in the serum, urine, or saliva which, while useful, are limited in the period of time measurable, and are only applicable prospectively. We measured cortisol in hair as a novel method to obtain long term data about exposure to cortisol. Using a modified salivary cortisol immune-assay, hair cortisol levels were measured in hair as old as 1800 years, and showed cortisol levels similar to modern day individuals living with elevated stress. Hair samples from patients with Cushing's Syndrome were analyzed and showed higher cortisol content than from healthy volunteers. Critically, the patients' hair samples showed changes over time that reflect the clinical course of the disease. These findings suggest that hair cortisol can provide a long term, retrospective assessment of systemic cortisol exposure, and can thus be advantageous compared to the currently used measurements.



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