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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/390

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the discovery that peptones prevented the coagulation of the blood in dogs, and the latter, under Ludwig's direction, has also investigated their action upon the circulation. He finds that, when injected into a vein, they greatly depress the circulation, so that the blood-pressure falls very considerably; and when the quantity injected is large, they produce a soporose condition, complete arrest of the secretion by the kidneys, convulsions, and death. From these experiments it is evident that the normal products of digestion are poisons of no inconsiderable power, and that if they reach the general circulation in large quantities they may produce very alarming, if not dangerous, symptoms.

Such experiments as this open up a new and very wide field of inquiry, which is likely to prove of very great practical importance. We have hitherto been accustomed to reckon all peptones as identical, by whatever digestive ferment they were formed, and to look upon it as a matter of slight moment whether albuminous foods introduced into the digestive canal were dissolved by the stomach or by the pancreas, although it is quite possible that the peptones differ as much from each other as different kinds of sugars. It is a matter of wonder, also, that at the present moment, although the digestive processes have been so carefully investigated, we know very little of the uses of the succus entericus. Notwithstanding the great extent and evident importance of the intestine, and the large quantity of fluid which it is able to secrete, all that we find regarding the action of this secretion in such a book as Foster's "Physiology" is that "the statements with reference to its action are conflicting. Probably it has no direct action on either fats or proteids, but is amylolitic in some animals, though not in all." Succus entericus has also been said to change cane-into grape-sugar, and by a fermentative action to convert cane-sugar into lactic acid, and this again into butyric acid, with an evolution of carbonic acid and free hydrogen. The reason why experiments on the action of intestinal juice have given such an apparently unsatisfactory result is that they have been chiefly tried on such kinds of food as we are accustomed to put into our mouths. Now, the intestinal juice is not intended to act upon such substances: its place is to finish the digestion begun by the other juices; and when experiments with intestinal juice are tried upon foods which have previously been subjected to the action of the other digestive fluids, positive and not negative results are obtained. Thus, for example, it was stated by K├╝hne, in his lectures at Amsterdam in 1868-'69, that though intestinal juice would dissolve raw albumen and fibrine, it would not act at all upon them if boiled; but if the boiled albumen or fibrine were first subjected to the action of pancreatic juice for a short time, the intestinal juice would afterward dissolve them much more quickly than it would even in a raw condition. The action of digestive ferments is just beginning to find a practical application in medicine, and sometimes, undoubtedly, they are of very great service; but unless their action is investigated