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July 5, 1924


JAMA. 1924;83(1):43-44. doi:10.1001/jama.1924.02660010047019

The question, "Why doesn't the stomach digest itself?" has long been a popular theme for debate among students of physiology. The mere formulation of the query carries us back to the days of Hunter, who ventured an answer more than a century and a half ago. His explanation of the immunity of the living gastric mucosa to the solvent action of the gastric juice was the first of a series of hypotheses that are essentially vitalistic in nature. They have in common the reference to some property of the living, in contrast to corresponding dead, tissues as the protective feature that prevents the destructive digestive tendency of the gastric juice. The French physiologist Claude Bernard believed that the epithelial covering of the intestinal tract protected the underlying tissues from digestion; but this idea, as Fischer1 has remarked, besides explaining nothing, stands in contradiction to the facts of pathology, which