There have been significant breakthroughs in research within the field of endocrinology throughout the twentieth century. This has led to a deepening of understanding about how the endocrine system works and the opportunity for the discovery of new treatments for endocrine conditions.
Further breakthroughs in the field of endocrinology in the future could bring about dramatic changes to the way endocrine conditions are currently managed, especially considering all the innovative treatments on the horizon.
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Cure for endocrine disease
The treatments for endocrine diseases used at the present time primarily focus on the management of symptoms in affected patients. This helps to improve the quality of life of patients significantly but relies on continuous treatment that the patient will need to take for the rest of their life to maintain the effect. Therefore, there is a significant need for discovery about how the function of the endocrine system can be altered for medical purposes.
As an example, discovering a way to restore the production of insulin in the pancreas in a patient with type 1 diabetes could enable the condition to be cured, negating the need for regular insulin injections.
Likewise, for a patient with hypothyroidism, the mainstream treatment to be recommended is hormone replacement therapy to reduce symptoms associated with low levels of thyroid hormones. However, if a deeper understanding of the function of the thyroid gland enabled the possibility of restoring the function of the gland to normal, this would allow ongoing treatments to be ceased.
Concept of endocrinology
Recent developments in the field of endocrinology have blurred the lines of its place as a discipline of basic science. Some endocrinologists have gone so far as to question whether basic endocrinology is disappearing.
This was in relation to the enhanced knowledge of hormonal molecular mechanisms, leading to the suggestion that the discipline is becoming a part of the larger field: molecular cell biology. Endocrinology was separated as a division of the biomedical sciences in the past for teaching and research purposes, but it is unclear whether this should continue into the future due to its close links with molecular cell biology.
However, there are several reasons that endocrinology may continue to exist as a basic science in the future. These include the presence of orphan receptors and signaling molecules to control critical endocrine functions and unresolved issues that involve whole animal physiology (e.g. growth and puberty). Additionally, the field of endocrinology continues to be stimulated by clinical problems that need to be addressed.
e-ECE 2020: thoughts of friends and colleagues about endocrinology now and in the future
The future of endocrinology
It is evident that the field of endocrinology has made significant progress over the past century and there is the promise for this progress to continue in the future. Continued research in the sub-specialties of endocrinology could yield significant results to dramatically change the current practices in the field.
In particular, the introduction of innovative treatment methods to alter the function of the endocrine could lead to noteworthy improvements in outcomes for patients with endocrine diseases such as diabetes or hypothyroidism.