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An early scientific report on acromegaly: solving an intriguing endocrinological (c)old case?

Abstract

We present and discuss a late-nineteenth century clinical case described by Professor Taruffi in a scientific paper titled “Scheletro con prosopoectasia e tredici vertebre dorsali” (Skeleton with prosopoectasia and thirteen thoracic vertebrae). Taruffi could not explain the disproportionate skeletal and visceral growth, and the case could therefore be considered an unrecognized case of acromegaly. The anatomopathological specimens and the wax model cited in the paper are currently hosted at the “Luigi Cattaneo” Anatomical Wax Collection of Bologna University; however, some inaccuracies and uncertainties as to their attribution to the same case have remained to this day. The skeletal remains were examined macroscopically to investigate any structural abnormalities and pathological changes. In addition, thanks to archival, museum inventory and literature research, we documented the systematic relationship between the paper and the samples and were able to ascribe the abnormally dilated dried stomach, currently displayed in a different showcase, to the same case. This is, to our knowledge, the first case of acromegaly in the history of medical literature which also includes a visceral specimen. As far as we know, there are no reports of the occurrence of severe gastromegaly in patients with acromegaly. In view of this rare association and, to date, endocrinological research, we hypothesize a further pathogenic mechanism by which acromegaly could have induced this massive dilatation. Taruffi’s work represents an immensely valuable scientific/artistic heritage and is still cited in contemporary endocrinological literature, demonstrating its relevant contribution to the historical evolution of the disease through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

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Acknowledgments

The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the staff of University Museum Network (SMA), University of Bologna.

Author information

Marilisa Quaranta and Ester Orsini equally contributed to the paper conceiving and designing the study, analyzing and discussing the data, and writing the first draft of the manuscript. Matteo Zoli critically revised the manuscript from the clinical perspective; Lorenzo Maltoni created the iconographic material; Stefano Ratti, and Luisa Leonardi performed the data collection and archival research. Lucia Manzoli coordinated and supervised the study. All authors reviewed the manuscript and approved the final version.

Correspondence to Ester Orsini.

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Quaranta, M., Orsini, E., Zoli, M. et al. An early scientific report on acromegaly: solving an intriguing endocrinological (c)old case?. Hormones (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42000-020-00175-0

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Keywords

  • Acromegaly
  • Anatomopathological wax collection
  • Sella turcica
  • Gastromegaly