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

Marilisa Quaranta, Ester Orsini, Matteo Zoli, Stefano Ratti, Lorenzo Maltoni, Luisa Leonardi, Lucia Manzoli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Jan 1 2020


  • Acromegaly
  • Anatomopathological wax collection
  • Gastromegaly
  • Sella turcica

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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