Endocrinology is a branch of the medical profession that focuses on disorders of the endocrine system and hormones.
In the twentieth century, the research and practice of endocrinology grew significantly, which led to the formation of various societies and journals dedicated to the field.
As a result, there is now a relatively strong framework in place for endocrinologists to conduct research in the field and continue to expand our understanding of the endocrine system.
This article will summarize the main breakthroughs in endocrinology research, as recognized by the Nobel Prize, and then cover current and future research in the field.
Nobel Prizes in Endocrinology
The most prestigious award for life achievements in medical research is widely considered to be the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Several winners of the Nobel Prize for research in the field of endocrinology are outlined below.
- Emil Theodor Kocher in 1909: physiology, pathology and surgery of the thyroid gland
- Frederick G Banting and John J R Macleod in 1923: discovery of insulin
- Bernardo A Houssay in 1947: discovery of the part played by the hormone of the anterior pituitary lobe in the metabolism of sugar
- Edward C Kendall, Tadeus Reichstein and Philip S Henchin in 1950: discoveries relating to the hormones of the adrenal cortex, their structure and biological effects
- Earl W Sutherland, Jr in 1971: discoveries concerning the mechanisms of the action of hormones
- Rosalyn Yalow in 1977: development of radioimmunoassays (RIAs) of peptide hormones
- Roger Guillemin and Andrew V Schally in 1977: discoveries concerning the peptide hormone production of the brain
- Sune Bergström, Bengt Samuelsson and John Vane in 1982: discoveries concerning prostaglandins and related biologically active substances
- Michael Brown and Joseph Goldstein in 1985: discoveries concerning the regulation of cholesterol metabolism
- Stanley Cohen and Rita LeviMontalcini in 1986: discoveries of growth factors
- Erwin Neher and Bert Sakmann in 1991: discoveries concerning the function of single ion channels in cells
- Alfred Gilman and Martin Rodbell in 1994: discovery of G-proteins and the role of these proteins in signal transduction in cells
- Arvid Carlsson, Paul Greengard and Eric Kandel in 2000: discoveries concerning signal transduction in the nervous system
- Sir Robert (Geoffrey) Edwards in 2010: development of in vitro fertilization (IVF)
Current Endocrinology Research
Some recent breakthroughs and current research areas in the field of endocrinology are:
- The link between obesity and type 2 diabetes
- Role for topoisomerase in enhancer function
- The sodium/glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors in type 1 diabetes
- Stem cell-derived therapy for type 1 diabetes
- Fibroblast growth factor 1 (FGF-1) as an insulin sensitizer
- Food intake and cell metabolism
At this point in time, we have a deeper understanding of the role of the endocrine system in the body and some methods of treatment for chronic endocrine conditions, such as diabetes.
However, there is a significant reliance on chronic treatments for many endocrine conditions, thus there is a need for more research in order to devise better methods of treatment.
For example, discovering how the function of the endocrine system could be altered so as to cure endocrine diseases without ongoing treatment would be a meaningful breakthrough that may possibly stem from future research.