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Endocrinology (from Greek ἔνδον, endo, "within"; κρῑνω, krīnō, "to separate"; and -λογία, -logia) is a branch of brents biology and medicine dealing with the endocrine system, its diseases, and its specific secretions called hormones, the integration of developmental events such as proliferation, growth, and differentiation (including histogenesis and organogenesis) and the coordination of metabolism, respiration, excretion, movement, reproduction, and sensory perception depend on chemical cues, substances synthesized and secreted by specialized cells.

Endocrinology is concerned with the study of the biosynthesis, storage, chemistry, and physiological function of hormones and with the cells of the endocrine glands and tissues that secrete them.

The endocrine system consists of several glands, in different parts of the body, that secrete hormones directly into the blood rather than into a duct system. Hormones have many different functions and modes of action; one hormone may have several effects on different target organs, and, conversely, one target organ may be affected by more than one hormone.

In the original 1902 definition by Bayliss and Starling (see below), they specified that, to be classified as a hormone, a chemical must be produced by an organ, be released (in small amounts) into the blood, and be transported by the blood to a distant organ to exert its specific function. This definition holds for most "classical" hormones, but there are also paracrine mechanisms (chemical communication between cells within a tissue or organ), autocrine signals (a chemical that acts on the same cell), and intracrine signals (a chemical that acts within the same cell).[1] A neuroendocrine signal is a "classical" hormone that is released into the blood by a neurosecretory neuron (see article on Neuroendocrinology).

Hormones act by binding to specific receptors in the target organ. As Baulieu notes, a receptor has at least two basic constituents:

  • a recognition site, to which the hormone binds
  • an effector site, which precipitates the modification of cellular function.[2]

Between these is a "transduction mechanism" in which hormone binding induces allosteric modification that, in turn, produces the appropriate response.


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