Adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) is a peptide hormone that is produced by the anterior pituitary gland and the outer cortex of the adrenal glands. Medicinal ACTH extracted from the glands of mammals or manufactured synthetically.
It is occasionally used in short-term symptom management during multiple sclerosis relapses due to its anti-inflammatory and immuno-suppressive properties. It shortens the duration of relapses and reduces their severity but it does not have any effect on the overall course of the disease. Its long-term use is counter-indicated because it can cause a number of serious side-effects including cataracts, glaucoma, osteoporosis, vascular necrosis, myopathy psychosis and serious infections due to its immuno-suppressive properties.
It's use has been largely superceded by synthetically produced glucocorticoid hormones (e.g., cortisone, prednisone, prednisolone, methylprednisolone, betamethasone, dexamethasone), which can be directly administered without the use of ACTH, are more potent, cause less sodium retention and less potassium loss, and are longer-acting than ACTH. These do not not have any effect on the overall course of the disease either and also carry similar serious side-effects to ACTH.
The main function of ACTH is the regulation of the steroid hormone cortisol, which is secreted by the adrenal cortex. It stimulates the adrenal cortex to secrete glucocorticoid hormones, which help cells synthesise glucose, catabolize proteins, mobilise free fatty acids and inhibit inflammation in allergic responses.