There is a group of different biochemicals that flow through our body as humans, determining a lot of things. It is responsible for a lot of our actions and ability, and while so many people do not give credit to its function the way they do to the brain and the heart, on a daily basis there are ground-opening discoveries on what these chemicals can do in the human body. The chemicals are known as Hormones. I will be doing a little bit of endocrinology and a little of just general science in this post, moreover, hormones are the cutting edge of medical science.
Whether we agree or not, hormones control almost everything in our bodies. Unlike the vascular system, the skeletal system, or the cardiovascular organs, hormones aren't things we see with our regular eyes. While they are invisible to the regular eyes, they are responsible for regulating our bodies.
The study of hormones started in the 18th century, and musical artists like Farineli were one of the reasons for so much research. Farineli was a man but had a falsetto voice that would hit high pitches, he even had minor changes in his body structure that were similar to that of a woman. It was attributed to his castration from a very young age before he could begin to exhibit male growth changes.
While Charles-Édouard Brown-Séquard, a French-British physician and physiologist who made significant contributions to the field of endocrinology and neurology, and Thomas Addison, a British physician, and scientist who made important contributions to the field of endocrinology, particularly in the study of adrenal gland disorders, are no doubt one of the important contributors to endocrinology, the work of Arnold Berthold in 1849 cannot be thrown away. He worked on birds to be able to understand how castration could affect a whole lot of things. He worked on a type of bird known as Capons. He was able to understand how castration could affect humans. When the birds were castrated, they lost all their cock ability and became very calm and meek. He went further to see if he could hold or reverse the effects as a result of castration. He removed the testes from young cockerels and realized that they did lose some of their secondary sex characteristics but when the testis was transplanted, the males showed the normal aggressive behavior of cocks and exhibited secondary sex characteristics such as their wattles and cones. He placed the testis in the bird's abdomen and when he did an autopsy on those birds, he realized that the testis which he had transplanted into the birds had developed new blood vessels around. With this, he was able to identify that whatever was causing such changes was done through the blood. Remember that one difference between enzymes and hormones is that enzymes are sent to specific agents directly while hormones are released into the bloodstream. He was able to show that there were some chemicals released from that testis that he transplanted that were responsible for the changes in the behavior of the bird and its characteristics that the bird. Currently, we know that the chemical is testosterone, and is responsible for the changes that boys experience in puberty. Although he didn't do much research on this, other scientists such as Charles-Édouard Brown-Séquard, and Thomas Addison did.
Charles-Édouard Brown-Séquard went further to prepare a mixture of the blood from the testicular veins, semen, and juice extracted from the testicles which were crushed immediately after it was extracted from a guinea pig or a dog which he had injected into himself and was rejuvenated and referred to it as the Brown-Séquard Elixir. This was the foundation of organotherapy where various glads were injected into people to cure illness. While Brown-Séquard elixir wasn't didn't give a reproducible effect on other people who wanted it, it was able to place the spectrum on hormones, leading to groundbreaking breakthroughs in the years to come.
In the late 80s, there was an outspread of the diseases mixed edema and cretinism. It could leave people both physically and mentally disabled but thanks to Victor Horsley, it is now a disease that can be solved. Victor Horsley was a British neurosurgeon and physiologist who made significant contributions to the field of neuroscience. He has made important contributions to the study of physiology, neurology, and endocrinology. He worked on the thyroid gland which led to the breakthrough that solved the disease which was ongoing at the time. Horsley worked on the thyroids of monkeys and then showed that these monkeys also developed changes of mixed edema that the humans experienced at the time, and he was able to come to the conclusion that thyroid gland deficiency was the cause of mixed edema and cretinism. And just in the continuation of organotherapy, he suggested the transplant of sheep's thyroid into humans but the sheep's thyroid effects only lasted for about 7 days which made it a very difficult course to carry on regularly. Later, Victor Horsley's student George Murray was able to come up with a thyroid replacement therapy. He decided to cut the thyroid into bits, add them to carbolic acid, and produce pink thyroid juice. Instead of surgery, he was giving the mixed pink thyroid juice to patients via injection and patients had improvements. This breakthrough led to scientists digging to understand how hormones worked.
George Oliver further made it interesting by discovering the arterial meter or haemal dynamometer which was used to check low blood pressure by measuring the diameter of the artery on the gauge. He was working on the adrenal glands and wanted to cure low blood pressure. He did his tests on rabbits who died but tested it on his son who was sick and he survived and came with a positive result. He was able to show that adrenal gland extraction was the cause of the arterial narrowing which led to high blood pressure. He was measuring this with his arterial meter and was able to identify and measure the effect of adrenaline, and this was another breakthrough.
While this wasn't the cutting edge to how hormones became a thing, at least we could say that scientists had made great breakthroughs, and over time, understanding how hormones work was going to be possible. This I will discuss in my next post. I hope you had a good time reading through this.