Saturday, January 11, 2014

1808: Reisseissen discovers smooth muscles along air passages

Samuel Thomas von Sommering (1755-1830)
was a German physician and anatomist who,
confirmed Reisseissen's discovery. (6, page 4)
Dr. Franz Daniel Reisseissen (1773-1828) was a German physician who studied the lungs, and proved that smooth muscles line the air passages.  This was a significant discovery, and set the stage for later physicians to prove the spasmotic theory of asthma.

He performed experiments in 1808, and the results were published as essays in Berlin in 1822.  (1, pages 196-197)

W.H. Geddings, in the 1885 edition of A System of Practical Medicine, said Reisseissen discovered...
..."smooth muscle fibres of the bronchial tubes. These fibres are found not only in the large and medium-sized bronchi, but even in those of the smallest calibre." (2, page 185, 193)
Emanuel Aufrecht (1844-1903) attended school
in Berlin and was a student of Ludwig Traub and
Rudolf Virchow.  He graduated from medical school
in 1866.   He became a physician at Magdeburg-
Alstadt City Hospital
 in 1868, and physician in chief
of Internal Medicine at Magdeburg in 1879. 
worked out the arrangement of the bronchial muscle

 fibres. (7, page 163)  While chief of clinical medicine 
Magdeburg he published a book with his colleagues in
(8, title page)
Gedding said the discovery was "The first step toward a truly scientific theory of the pathology of asthma."

Without his discovery, none of the discoveries that readily proved asthma was spasmotic would have been possible, including those of Charles J.B. William and Francois Longett.

Rene Laennec, in his 1819 book "Mediate Auscultation" said there were various theories as to the structure of the lungs prior to Reisseissen's discovery.  For instance, Laennec said: (3, page 154)
(Marcello) Malpighi conceived that the air cells were formed by the inner membrane of the bronchi being divided, previously to their termination, into cells like those of a sponge. Helvetius fancied that he had ascertained by direct experiment, that the air cells were formed by a simple cellular tissue, disposed without any regular order, and derived from the cellular envelopes of the various vessels by which the lungs are traversed. (Albrecht von) Haller entertained almost the same opinion, which is, indeed, that of the greater number of anatomists. (3, page 154)
M. Varnier confirmed Reisseissen's experiments
that the bronchi may constrict when stimulated.
He believed "irritating fluids or fumes forced
into the lungs caused contraction therof."
There were also various other physicians
who confirmed Reisseissen's experiment,
including: Prochaska, Gotfried, Reinhold,
Treviranus, and Wedemeyer
(6, page 4)(7, page 27)
The speculation ended when, according to Laennec, Reisseissen... means of a great many microscopical observations and mercurial injections, has ascertained that the bronchi, at their extremities, are subdivided into a multitude of small canals, terminated by cul-de-sac of globular form, grouped somewhat in the manner of terminal branchlets of cauliflower. (3, page 154)
John Forbes quoted Reisseissen as saying...
... that, although it appears difficult to follow the muscular fibres further, analogy leads us to admit their existence in the smaller branches, and perhaps even in the aircells (later to become known as alveoli)." (4, page 186)
Dr. J.B. Berkart, in the 1878 edition of his book "On Asthma: It's Pathology and Treatment, said that while Reisseissen was aware of muscular fibres surrounding the large and small air passages, their function remained a mystery to him. (5, page 17)

The significance of these muscular fibres has still not been determined as of this writing.  However, the significance of them as far as the pathology of asthma was concerned lead to a massive search that would last the rest of the 19th century.

The task, however, was begun by Charles J.B. William and Francois Longett.

  1. Addison, Thomas, J.M. Bourgery, and George Rainey, "On the air cells of the lungs," The Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal, volume 69, 1848, pages 192-214
  2. Geddings, W.H., author of the chapter on "Bronchial Asthma," in the book  "A System of Practical Medicine," edited by William Pepper and Louis Star,Volume 3, 1885, Philadelphia, Lea Brothers and Co.
  3. Laennec, Rene Theophile Hyacinthe, "A treaties on the diseases of the chest, and on mediate auscultation," translated by John Forbes, 1838, New York, Philadelphia, Samuel S. and William Wood, Thomas Cowperthwaite and Company
  4. Forbes, John, ed., "The Cyclopaedia of practical medicine," 1833, volume 1, page 186
  5. Berkart, J.B., "On Asthma: It's pathology and treatment," 1878, London, J. & A. Churchill
  6. Shmiegelow, Ernst, "Asthma, considered specially in relation to nasal disease," 1890, London, H.K. Lewis
  7. Brown, Orville Harry, "Asthma, presenting an exposition of nonpassive expiration theory," 1917, St. Louis, C.V. Mosby Company
  8. Hoffman, Friedrich Albin, Ottomar Rosenbach, Emanuel Aufrecht, writers, John H. Musser, editor, Alfred Stengel, translator, "Diseases of the Bronchi, Lungs and Pleura," 1902, Philadelphia, New York and London, W.B. Saunders and Company. 

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