Remembering Professor Gaetano “Nino” Salvatore – Prof. Maurizio Bifulco

DOI 10.1007/s12020-017-1376-4

Remembering Professor Gaetano “Nino” Salvatore

Maurizio Bifulco1

Received: 21 June 2017 / Accepted: 12 July 2017
© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

The 20 anniversary of the death of Professor Gaetano Salvatore
on June 25 of this year is the right occasion to
remember such an eminent scientist. “Nino”, the nickname
used by all his friends and colleagues, has been an unforgotten
and unforgettable academic and scientist, one of the
most influential voice of European biomedical culture and
science, especially in the endocrinology field, for at least
three decades. He was the model of absolute commitment
and abnegation to scientific research in the medical field,
becoming a distinguished international scientist thanks to
his work among Naples in Italy and Bethesda in the United
States. His multifaceted, volcanic, and charismatic personality
characterized an outstanding career: Full Professor at
the very young age of 33, Dean of the Medical School at the
University Federico II of Naples, President of the ‘Stazione
Zoologica’ in Naples, head of the Centre of Experimental
Endocrinology and Oncology of the National Research
Council (CNR), national member of the prestigious ‘Accademia
dei Lincei’, Fogarty Scholarship in Residence at the
National Institute of Health in Bethesda are only few of its
numerous achievements [1]. Everything at the Medical
School of University Federico II in Naples still talks about
him: the lecture hall, the street running along the School of
Medicine, the research Centre of Experimental Endocrinology
and Oncology of the National research Council and
the genetic research centre Biogem are dedicated to his
memory and have his name. He was widely known for his
studies on thyroid physiology and diseases, that led to a
significant progress of the knowledge in the field of endocrinology.
His main scientific contributions regarded physiopathology
and comparative physiopathology of the
thyroid gland that led to the discovery in the ’60 s of the
lowest vertebrate and invertebrate classes with a thyroid
function and the biosynthesis of iodoproteins very similar in
the function to thyroglobulin: the Chordates (Cephalochordate
amphioxus), the Urochordates (Ciona intestinalis
and Clavelina klaepadiformis) and the Cyclostomata (Petromyzon
planeri) [2]. Moreover he studied in depth the
molecular mechanism at the basis of thyroid hormones. He
also developed a new method for the detection and purification
of iodoproteins and described a novel iodoprotein
rich in iodine and thyroid hormones, named 27 S thyroglobulin
[3, 4]. One of his main contributions in the field
of Thyroidology was the intuition to develop in the 1980s a
model of a thyroid cell culture system that recapitulates all
the thyroid’s differentiated functions in vitro. This rat
thyroid cell line, named FRT-L-5, was then realized by
Francesco Saverio Impiombato and it is widely used up
today by thyroid researchers from all over the world in
fundamental research and in clinical tests for thyroid autoimmune
diseases and hormonal bioassays [5]. Furthermore
he was active also in the clinical endocrinology field and
encouraged, as a major proponent of a fundamental law in
Italy, the introduction of the consumption of iodized salt to
counteract endemic goitre and the screening of all the newborns
for congenital hypothyroidism.
Thanks to his enthusiastic approach to work and research
he enriched the Neapolitan and Italian scientific community,
promoting scientific research, the internationalization of
research and the mentoring of young students and scientists,
particularly thanks to the exchange program among Italian
and NIH laboratories. Nino Salvatore loved the mentoring activity the most,

he cared for young students, organized for
them numerous events to stimulate their creativity and
encourage them to take up a career in scientific research,
transmitting at the same time the passion for medical
knowledge and the positive thinking and perseverance to
face and overcome the difficulties. Research was his life but
he had other interests too, that he loved to share with his
friends: music, chess, computer games, sea, and good food.
All his pupils owe him a debt of gratitude and have the duty
to carry on his professional and cultural mission. There’s a
famous aphorism that says “The best teachers are those who
show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see”:
Nino Salvatore was this kind of mentor. Now, after two
decades since his death, all his friends, colleagues, pupils
and students still keep alive his memory. Scientists like him
never die. They live in the memory and in the daily action
of their pupils.

Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest The authors declare that they have no competing
Ethical approval This article does not contain any studies with
human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.
1. M. Bifulco, In memory of nino Salvatore: tenth anniversary.
Thyroid 18(1), 91–92 (2008)
2. G. Salvatore, G. Vecchio, V. Macchia, On the presence of thyroid
hormones in a tunicate, Clavelina lepadiformis (M. Edw.) var.
rissoana. Comptes rendus des séances de la Société de biologie et
de ses filiales 154, 1380–1384 (1960)
3. G. Salvatore, M. Salvatore, H.J. Cahnmann, J. Robbins, Separation
of thyroidal iodoproteins and purification of thyroglobulin. J. Biol.
Chem. 239, 3267–3274 (1964)
4. G. Salvatore, G. Vecchio, M. Salvatore, H.J. Cahnmann, J. Robbins,
27s thyroid iodoprotein. Isolation and properties. J. Biol.
Chem. 240, 2935–2943 (1965)
5. F.S. Ambesi-Impiombato, L.A. Parks, H.G. Coon, Culture of
hormone-dependent functional epithelial cells from rat thyroids.
Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 77, 3455–3459 (1980)

* Maurizio Bifulco
1 Department of Molecular Medicine and Medical Biotechnologies,
University of Naples “Federico II”, Naples, Italy

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