Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/581

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

consider free cell-formation in a blastema or exudation by an aggregation of molecules, in accordance with the views of Henle, as a common phenomenon. This proposition was attacked with great energy by Virchow in a series of memoirs published in his 'Archiv,' commencing in Vol. 1, 1847, and finally received its death-blow in his published lectures on Cellular Pathology, 1858. He maintained that in pathological structures there was no instance of cell development de novo; where a cell existed, there one must have been before. Cell-formation was a continuous development by descent, which he formulated in the expression omnis cellvla e cellulâ.



While the descent of cells from preexisting cells by division of the nucleus during the development of the egg, in the embryos of plants and animals, and in adult vegetable and animal tissues, both in healthy and diseased conditions, had now become generally recognized, the mechanism of the process by which the cleavage of the nucleus took place was for a long time unknown. The discovery had to be deferred until the optician had been able to construct lenses of a higher penetrative power, and the microscopist had learned the use of coloring agents capable of dyeing the finest elements of the tissues. There was reason to believe that in some cases a direct cleavage of the nucleus, to be followed by a corresponding division of the cell into two parts, did occur. In the period between 1870 and 1880 observations were made by Schneider, Strasburger, Bütschli, Fol, van Beneden and Flemming, which showed that the division of the nucleus and the cell was due to a series of very remarkable changes, now known as indirect nuclear and cell division, or karyokinesis. The changes within the nucleus are of so complex a character that it is impossible to follow them in detail without the use of appropriate illustrations. I shall have to content myself, therefore, with an elementary sketch of the process.

I have previously stated that the nucleus in its passive or resting stage contains a very delicate network of threads or fibers. The first stage in the process of nuclear division consists in the threads arranging themselves in loops and forming a compact coil within the nucleus. The coil then becomes looser, the loops of threads shorten and thicken, and somewhat later each looped thread splits longitudinally into two portions. As the threads stain when coloring agents are applied to them, they are called chromatin fibers, and the loose coil is the chromosome (Waldeyer).

As the process continues, the investing membrane of the nucleus disappears, and the loops of threads arrange themselves within the nucleus so that the closed ends of the loops are directed to a common center, from which the loops radiate outwards and produce a starlike