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During the Middle Ages and later, the practice persisting well into the 19th century, prepubertal boys were sometimes castrated to preserve the purity of their treble voices. This knowledge led to an abiding interest in restoring or enhancing male sexual powers.

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In the 18th century, London-based Scottish surgeon, anatomist, and physiologist John Hunter successfully transplanted the testis of a rooster into the abdomen of a hen. The transplanted organ developed a blood supply in the hen, though whether masculinization occurred was unclear.

In German physiologist Arnold Adolph Berthold performed a similar experiment, except, instead of hens, he transplanted rooster testes into capons castrated roosters. The capons subsequently regained secondary sex characteristics, demonstrating that the testes were the source of a masculinizing substance. His conclusions were based in part on observations obtained after he had injected himself with an extract of the testicle of a dog or of a guinea pig.


These experiments resulted in the widespread use of organ extracts to treat endocrine conditions organotherapy. Modern endocrinology largely originated in the 20th century, however. Later, American physiologist Walter Bradford Cannon — used the term homeostasis to describe this inner constancy. This control system permits the prime functions of living organisms—growth, development, and reproduction—to proceed in an orderly, stable fashion; it is exquisitely self-regulating, so that any disruption of the normal internal environment by internal or external events is resisted by powerful countermeasures.

Hypothalamus: Function, hormones, and disorders

When this resistance is overcome, illness ensues. Human endocrine system. Article Media. Info Print Print. Table Of Contents. Diabetes is treated with pills or insulin injections. Managing other endocrine disorders typically involves stabilizing hormone levels with medication or, if a tumor is causing an overproduction of a hormone, by removing the tumor. Treating endocrine disorders takes a very careful and personalized approach, Myers said, as adjusting the levels of one hormone can impact the balance of other hormones. Hormone imbalances can have a significant impact on the reproductive system, particularly in women, Loh explained.

Another disorder, hypothyroidism, a parathyroid disease, occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone to meet the body's needs. Loh noted that insufficient thyroid hormone can cause many of the body's functions to slow or shut down completely. It has an easy treatment, though. The damaged part of the gland is removed surgically. Thyroid cancer begins in the thyroid gland and starts when the cells in the thyroid begin to change, grow uncontrollably and eventually form a tumor, according to Loh. Tumors — both benign and cancerous — can also disrupt the functions of the endocrine system, Myers explained.

Between the years of and , the cases of thyroid cancer diagnosed yearly have more than tripled, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association JAMA.

Table of contents

Julie Sosa, one of the authors of the new study and the chief of endocrine surgery at Duke University in North Carolina. The American Cancer Society predicts that there will be about 53, new cases of thyroid cancer in and around 2, deaths from thyroid cancer. Hypoglycemia, also called low blood glucose or low blood sugar, occurs when blood glucose drops below normal levels.

Endocrine Regulation

This typically happens as a result of treatment for diabetes when too much insulin is taken. While Loh noted that the condition can occur in people not undergoing treatment for diabetes, such an occurrence is fairly rare.

Body Basics

After completing four years of medical school, people who want to be endocrinologists then spend three or four years in an internship and residency program. These specialty programs cover internal medicine, pediatrics, or obstetrics and gynecology, according to the American Board of Internal Medicine. Endocrinologists-in-training then spend two or three more years learning how to diagnose and treat hormone conditions. Overall, an endocrinologist's training will take more than 10 years after the undergraduate degree.

They are certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Endocrinologists typically specialize in one or two areas of endocrinology, such as diabetes or infertility. These specialists treat patients with fertility issues and also assess and treat patients with health concerns surrounding menstruation and menopause, Loh noted.

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