Prof. Walter Pierpaoli’s studies: a life dedicated to research into the rhythms of vital cycles

Walter Pierpaoli Prof. Walter Pierpaoli’s studies: a life dedicated to research into the rhythms of vital cycles

Walter Pierpaoli

Walter Pierpaoli was born in Milan in 1934. In 1960, he graduated in Medicine, with honours, with an experimental thesis on photodynamic reactions and carcinogenesis. He worked as an assistant at the Institute of General Pathology and, after specialising in cardiology, he opened a medical practice.
In 1963, after receiving a grant from the Atomic Energy Commission (USA) for research on energy transfer in photodynamic reactions, he became Laboratory Director of the Centro di Studio per la Patologia Cellulare (Cellular Pathology Research Centre) at the Italian National Research Council CNR in Milan, where he practised as a freelance lecturer in immunology until 1969, when he resigned.

In the same year he moved to the Swiss Institute of Medicine at Davos-Platz, where he worked until 1977 as Director of the Neuroimmunology Group.
For several years, he directed the Centre of Neuroimmunology, of which he was founder, at the Institute of Anatomy of the University of Zurich, where, thanks to a decade of scientific and financial support from the Choay Institute in Paris, he set up an Institute for Integrative Biomedical Research. In 1980, the Foundation for Basic Biomedical Research, now the INTERBION Foundation, of which Professor Pierpaoli is still President, was established.

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His research

Prof. Pierpaoli has dedicated fifty years of his life to research on ageing. His studies have focused in particular on the pineal gland, a tiny but crucial gland for human life and health, located in the middle of the brain.
According to Walter Pierpaoli’s studies, ageing is a programme, and it is the pineal gland that dictates the rhythm of the vital cycle. The pineal gland helps regulate the balance of hormonal, metabolic and immune functions and synchronise the body’s physiological cycles.
Hormones and many physiological processes in the human body follow the cyclical nature of day and night (the so-called
circadian rhythms), solar and lunar cycles and seasonal cycles. The pineal gland intervenes in the control of these cycles, which is crucial for preserving health.
Protecting the functional integrity of the pineal gland means keeping the biological rhythm system in sync and thus younger and healthier.

In 1967, with the article ‘Relationship between thymus and hypophysis‘ published in Nature, Prof. Pierpaoli demonstrated that there is a close interdependence between the neuroendocrine and immune systems. With this article, the professor showed the scientific community the revolutionary scope of the implications of his research, contributing to the birth of a new interdisciplinary field of science of which he was one of the pioneers, neuroimmunomodulation (NIM), now psychoneuroendocrineimmunology (PNEI), an integrative medical discipline to which thousands of researchers are dedicated today.

In the course of his work, Walter Pierpaoli has published more than 140 papers in the most prestigious and authoritative international scientific journals, including ‘Nature’, ‘Journal of the National Cancer Institute’, and ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’, to name but a few.
For a number of years, he received funds from the National Cancer Institute, Bethesda in the United States, for his research into bone marrow transplants.
In 1987, he held the first Stromboli Conference on ageing and cancer, inaugurating the long series of scientific conferences that would be repeated in 1990, 1993, 2005, and 2010, in the wonderful setting of the island of Stromboli. The volumes of the Stromboli Conferences were published by the New York Academy of Sciences. In 2016, the sixth edition, entitled Why do we die?, was held in Fano.

Prof. Pierpaoli is also the author of numerous popular texts. The first, The Melatonin Miracle, published in 1995 in the United States by Simon & Schuster, soon became a world best seller, translated into 17 languages (in italian, La chiave della vita), is a beautiful journey to discover melatonin, which the reader will discover to be, thanks to the professor’s simple and direct language, a substance with multiple virtues, not only related to sleep. A new edition of the book was recently published in Italy by Gribaudo, with the title Universo Melatonina.

Prof. Walter Pierpaoli’s research inspired and guided Pierpaoli Exelyas’ topics of interest: to this day, our innovation follows the course charted by the professor.