The endocrine system orchestrates major developmental, reproductive, and other physiological changes throughout life. Through the mapping of hormone pathways, endocrinology and endocrine disruption can be better defined, aiding in the diagnosis of endocrine diseases and disruption.
Steroid and thyroid hormones are classes of endocrine signalers that are major regulators of development, reproduction, stress, and growth. Steroids begin with a cholesterol backbone and are transformed into different steroids with different capabilities through a series of enzymes. Similarly, thyroid hormones have similar backbones but differ on the number and placement of iodine molecules. Although they are similar in structure and therefore difficult to distinguish, hormones work in concert to produce a myriad of physiological responses. Hormone measurement methods are moving towards pathway analyses to better describe and monitor endocrine changes. NIST scientists have developed mass spectrometry methods for the measurement of steroid hormone pathways which better describe physiological changes than one hormone at a time analyses, and are applying them to human and wildlife matrices to better understand endocrine changes including medical diagnostics and environmental health.