Author(s): Hillier SG
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Abstract The year 1946 was not only the year that the Society for Endocrinology was founded, but also the year that Edward Kendall's compound E (cortisone) was first synthesised by Louis Sarett. By 1948, sufficient quantities of compound E were available for the rheumatologist Philip Hench to test it successfully for the first time in a patient with rheumatoid arthritis. It was immediately hailed as a 'wonder drug' and was shown to be effective in a number of inflammation-associated conditions, most notably rheumatoid arthritis. The subsequent development of endocrinology as a discipline is inextricably linked to the chemistry, biology and medicine of antiinflammatory glucocorticoids. Sixty years after the first chemical synthesis of cortisone, corticosteroids remain among the top ten most commonly used prescription and over the counter drugs. Basic and clinical studies of glucocorticoid biosynthesis, metabolism and action have trail-blazed developments in endocrinology ever since. This article surveys the extraordinary cortisone timeline, from first synthesis until now. The concluding scientific message is that intracrine metabolism of cortisone to cortisol via 11beta hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 likely sustains local amplification of glucocorticoid action at sites of inflammation throughout the body. The broader message is that the discovery of compound E by Kendall (basic scientist), its large-scale synthesis by Sarett (industrial chemist) and its therapeutic application by Hench (rheumatologist) serves as a paradigm for modern translational medicine. It is concluded that endocrinology will remain a force in health and disease if it continues to evolve sans frontières at the basic/applied/clinical science interface. A challenge for the Society for Endocrinology is to ensure this happens.
This article was published in J Endocrinol
and referenced in Journal of Drug Metabolism & Toxicology