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J Endocrinol. 2005 Dec;187(3):311-25.

Parathyroid hormone: past and present.

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  • 1Endocrine Unit, Department of Medicine, The Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, 149 Thirteenth Street, Room 4013, Charlestown, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.


Research on parathyroid hormone (PTH) has undergone four rather distinctive phases, beginning just before the turn of the 20th century. Early debates about the function of the parathyroids were resolved by 1925, when understanding the role of PTH led to comprehending the action of the glands in calcium physiology. Elucidation of the pathophysiology of hormone excess (severe bone loss) and deficiency (hypocalcemia) continued over the following decades. With the advent of advances in chemical and molecular biology, the structure of PTH and its principal receptor (PTHrP-receptor [PTHR1]) were established. Tests with purified hormonal peptide in humans led to the surprising, even paradoxical, finding that PTH can be used pharmacologically to build bone, providing a dramatic therapeutic impact on osteoporosis. These developments have stimulated the field of calcium and bone biology and posed new questions about the role of PTH as well as possible new directions in therapy.

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