Oral Presentation The International Congress of Neuroendocrinology 2014

From Claude Bernard to Hans Selye: A century of neuroendocrine discoveries (#2)


The term Neuroendocrinology is recent and relies on a series of elegant experiments made by Ernest and Berta Sharrer on neurosecretion (1945) and just after the 2nd WWW by Geoffrey Harris in UK and Jacques Benoit in France, showing that ‘the hypothalamo-hypophysial portal vasculature is necessary for the maintenance and control of normal activity of the anterior pituitary, contrasting this mechanism with the direct neural control of the posterior pituitary’. However, it is really in the middle of the 19th century, with the work of Claude Bernard, that the modern physiology started. Not only his discoveries stirred up biology, but his concepts have been the background of extraordinary progress in biomedical research. Thus several aspects presented in the various symposia of this meeting such as the humoral milieu, glucose homeostasis, neurotransmission, reproduction and stress, have roots in Claude Bernard’s ideas.

This historical presentation covers a century of great discoveries relevant to our current work in neuroendocrine regulations. It gives us the opportunity to illustrate the link between Claude Bernard and the pioneer work of Frederick Banting, Robert Collip and Hans Selye This period of history, marked by two devastating wars, thus brought two major scientific events, both in Canada: in Toronto, the discovery of insulin, used to treat millions around the world, and in Montreal, the discovery of several pituitary hormones (ACTH, TSH…) and of stress, a condition that has become “the disease of the century”. These two prodigious biomedical advances show us that research sometimes follows unexpected paths, revealing the importance of politics in science, the secret world of laboratories, their intrigues and conflicts, and all the vagaries that can lead a researcher to receive a Nobel Prize – or not.