Navigation Links
Odd experiments by 'America's first physiologist' shed light on digestion
Date:4/24/2013

BOSTONA fur trader who suffered an accidental gunshot wound in 1822 and the physician who saw this unfortunate incidence as an opportunity for research are key to much of our early knowledge about the workings of the digestive system, say speakers of an upcoming symposium.

These speakersJay Dean, Ph.D., of the University of South Florida, Richard Rogers, Ph.D., of Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana State University, and Patrick Lambert, Ph.D., of Creighton Universitywill give their symposium presentation entitled, "William Beaumont: America's First Physiologist and Pioneer of Gastrointestinal Research," at the Experimental Biology 2013 meeting, being held April 20-24, 2013 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, Boston, Mass. The symposium is sponsored by the American Physiological Society (APS), a co-sponsor of the event.

Food on Strings

Dean, a physiologist who studies the nerve cells that control heart rate and breathing and an amateur historian, explains that army physician William Beaumont was stationed at Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island in Michigan in the early 1820s. The army facility, established to protect the interests of the American Fur Company, became the refuge for a fur trader named Alexis St. Martin was accidentally shot in the abdomen at close range on June 6, 1822.

It was a serious woundSt. Martin's stomach was perforated, several of his ribs were broken, and the shot blew off several muscle fragments. Beaumont didn't expect St. Martin to survive, but the fur trader surprised him. Over the next year, St. Martin healed remarkably, but the skin around the wound fused to the hole in his stomach, leaving a permanent opening called a gastric fistula.

"As Beaumont tended to St. Martin over the next three years, he realized that this was really a serendipitous event," Dean says. "It dawned on him that there could be a research opportunity in this."

At the time, Dean explains, not much was known about digestion. To gain insight about this vital function, Beaumont performed a series of 238 experiments on St. Martin intermittently over an eight-year period. In all, experiments were conducted at four different rustic military outposts spanning the unsettled Great Lakes region to the East Coast. Twice, Beaumont had to convince the reluctant St. Martin to return from Canada to his frontier lab to continue the experiments. Many of these experiments involved inserting bits of different foods tied to strings through the hole in St. Martin's stomach, pulling them out periodically to observe digestion. Beaumont also removed gastric juice, examining it to better understand its nature.

Seizing the Opportunity

Beaumont's observations, published in1833 in a lengthy book entitled "Experiments and Observations on the Gastric Juice and the Physiology of Digestion," form the basis of much of the early knowledge on digestion. Many of his observations have proven true with today's more sophisticated research techniques, Dean says.

For example, Beaumont discovered that hydrochloric acid is the main chemical responsible for breaking down food. He proposed the existence of a second important digestive chemical, which scientists now know is the enzyme pepsin. His experiments "digesting" food in a cup with St. Martin's extracted gastric juices showed that digestion is a chemical process, not merely a mechanical one caused by stomach muscle movement. His work also provided insights on how emotions, temperature, and physical activity can affect digestion.

From performing such intensive investigation in America's early days, Beaumont is now recognized as America's first physiologist, Dean says. Today, numerous hospitals are named after this physician-scientist.

Despite St. Martin's unusual wound, which never healed, he ended up outliving Beaumont and fathering numerous children.

Much of Beaumont's success relied on seizing an unexpected break, Dean says. "St. Martin ended up becoming Beaumont's living laboratory," Dean adds. "He recognized an opportunity that hadn't been planned on and exploited it to gain important knowledge, something good scientists often do today."


'/>"/>

Contact: Donna Krupa
dkrupa@the-aps.org
American Physiological Society
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Experiments may understate plant responses to climate
2. New cutting-edge cell research will lead to safer medical experiments on humans
3. New book celebrates women scientists in the Americas
4. BGI hosts its 2nd International Conference on Genomics in the Americas
5. Kessler Foundation implements Ekso Bionics first commercial robotic exoskeleton
6. Research reveals first evidence of hunting by prehistoric Ohioans
7. First model of how buds grow into leaves
8. American College of Rheumatology releases first classification criteria for polymyalagia rheumatica
9. Ottawa researchers to lead world-first clinical trial of stem cell therapy for septic shock
10. First complete full genetic map of promising energy crop
11. FirstMark Announces New Hire Jay Houtman as Southeast Regional Sales Manager
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:2/27/2019)... ... ... Fluxion Biosciences, a leading developer of precision solutions for life science research ... further development of its ERASE-Seq liquid biopsy technology. The Phase I grant will have ... Mian at the Cleveland Clinic. , Liquid biopsies offer the potential to improve treatment ...
(Date:2/22/2019)... FALLS, Wisc. (PRWEB) , ... February 21, 2019 , ... ... movement is now expected when creating natural foods and beverages. It is quite common ... the fine print. Yet, meat products are not immune to this label scrutiny. ...
(Date:2/19/2019)... (PRWEB) , ... February 19, 2019 , ... ... the appointment of Mark Hozza as Chief Commercial Officer of the life science ... responsible for the performance, strategy, and alignment of all market research and media ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:3/4/2019)... ... ... hot topics through free webinars presented by leading experts in pharma, biotech, medical device and ... save your place! Participate in the discussion and stay relevant in your field! , Visit ... March 20 – Implementing BYOD Across Phase II and III Clinical Trials , ...
(Date:2/27/2019)... ... February 26, 2019 , ... ... automation and IT solutions with 140 employees on both the east and west ... license in the State of New Hampshire. Sandmaier, a senior project engineer, joins ...
(Date:2/22/2019)... ... February 20, 2019 , ... Murrieta Genomics ... in the rapidly growing NGS (Next Generation Sequencing) field, have announced a partnership ... incubator. , "As an innovation center and idea incubator, we are always looking ...
(Date:2/22/2019)... ... 20, 2019 , ... Ocean Tomo Transactions, LLC will auction ... The patents in lot 92 relate to innovation for verifying human ... human users and computers through exploiting the fundamental differences between computer-based vision and ...
Breaking Biology Technology: