George Chrousos, Professor and Chairman of the First Department of Paediatrics at Athens University Medical School, Greece.

Our ability to deal with stress at a physiological level centres around the release of the steroid hormone cortisol. When the glucocorticoid system that underpins cortisol release is disturbed, pathogenesis ensues, as exemplified by Chrousos syndrome. Also known as Primary Generalised Glucocorticoid Resistance (PGGR), this disorder was first described by the eponymous George Chrousos, now Professor and Chairman of the First Department of Paediatrics at the University of Athens Medical School, Greece, and Professor of Paediatrics, Physiology and Biophysics at Georgetown University Medical School, USA.

Chrousos’ notable career investigating the body’s response to stress – including his pioneering work on the effects of stress on the neuroendocrine system – is acknowledged this year in his acceptance of the Fred Conrad Koch Lifetime Achievement Award from the Endocrine Society. In a video Q&A with BMC Medicine Senior Editor Ursula D’Souza, Chrousos discusses the widespread effects and long-term consequences of stress on the body, how this feeds into acute and chronic disorders, as well as the role genetics and the environment have to play.


“Our vulnerability to stressors depends to a great extent on our genes and also on our epigenetics, which express the effect of our environment on our genetic material.”
George Chrousos, University of Athens


George Chrousos received his medical degree and doctorate from the University of Athens, Greece. He went on to specialise in paediatrics at New York University Medical School, USA, followed by a fellowship in endocrinology, metabolism and diabetes at the Clinical Center of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), USA. During his career Chrousos has held several key positions at the NIH, including Chief of the Paediatric and Reproductive Endocrinology Branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). His contributions to endocrinology not only include elucidating the pathogenesis of PGGR, but also a series of seminal findings into glucocorticoid signalling and disorders of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, as well as advances in the development of corticotrophin-releasing hormone receptor antagonists.

Noted for his integrative approach to medicine, Chrousos’ research underscores the central role stress can play in a variety of pathologies, including; major depression, autoimmune and inflammatory conditions, obesity, anorexia nervosa, metabolic syndrome, and sleep disorders.


“In the last 30 years we sleep on average two hours less than the duration of sleep of people in the 1970s and this is stressful for the body as it alters metabolism.”
George Chrousos, University of Athens


Chrousos continues to drive forward progress in understanding and managing the effects of stress, and in 2012 co-organised the ‘Profound Impact of Stress’ conference with Philip Gold, Chief of the Clinical Neuroendocrinology Branch at the NIH, where both the biological and social costs of stress were explored.


“Prenatal and early life are extremely vulnerable periods […] If there is stress during this time the stress hormones leave behind an epigenetic imprint, which accompanies the child for the rest of his or her life.”
George Chrousos, University of Athens


A greater awareness of the multisystem effects of stress on health and well being highlights the growing importance of research in this area. But what is needed for continued progress in the field? How can we better prevent stress? How can we cope with it when it arises? Chrousos shares his thoughts on these questions in a video Q&A with BMC Medicine.


Question and answer

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