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August 2014

Demystifying Merkel

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, Miami, Florida
JAMA Dermatol. 2014;150(8):814. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2014.225

The Merkel cell represents 1 of the 4 types of cells that make up the epidermis. But how did it get its name? Friedrich Sigmund Merkel was born in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1845. He earned his medical degree from the University of Erlangen at 24 years of age. After medical school, he accepted a position of prosector at the University Medical Center of Göttingen. As prosector, Merkel was afforded the opportunity to work under Jacob Henle, who was the director of anatomy and the person for which the loop of Henle is named. During this time, Merkel began dating the daughter of his mentor—Anne Henle—who later became his wife. Merkel left Göttingen in 1872 to join the staff at the University of Rostock.1