Studies in the Osteopathic
Basic Principles: Volume
Louisa Burns, M.S., D.O., D.Sc.O.
AFTER ITS RESERVES ARE EXHAUSTED, ANY INCREASE IN
CELL ACTIVITY NOT ACCOMPANIED BY INCREASED ENERGY
SUPPLY MUST BE MADE AT THE EXPENSE OF CELL STRICTURE.
It is, as every one knows, impossible to define life. This is not
a matter of great importance when it is remembered that no one is able
to define any fundamental thing. We know a great many things about
light, and heat, and force, matter, the elements, and our own minds, but
not any one of us has any adequate conception of the real, intrinsic nature
of any element, or of a single form of force, or of the intellect that
studies these things.
may learn, and we have learned, many facts concerning these things which
are of inestimable value to us in the daily demonstration of our reaction
to our surroundings, but this knowledge is based upon an absolute ignorance
of the ultimate nature of the very things which we consider most familiar
to us. Our knowledge about these things is not of less value to us
because we do not know the things. We must simply recognize our ignorance,
and also recognize that it is at present incurable.
like manner, we must recognize our inability to define life, while persistently
engaged in the study of its nature, of its phenomena under various conditions.
We may learn many things about life, just as we may learn many things about
matter, or force, or the action of our own minds. The more we try
to define life, to try to put into words what it really is, in terms of
other fundamentals, themselves as unknowable, the more we are lost.
if we recognize the futility of definitions, and content ourselves here,
as in other sciences, with the investigation of phenomena, we may be able
to solve some of the problems of living structure.
The Source of the Energy of Living Things.
we resolve all the phenomena characteristic of life into their primal significance,
we will find that every one is a form of reply which each living organism
makes to its environment. Every manifestation of energy, every movement,
every action of the ingestion of food, of the karyokinetic changes, of
the psychical expressions, of developmental changes, both racial and individual;
all these and all other manifestations of life are merely the expressions
of an answer to environal changes. There is no expression of life
or of living substance except such as is brought out in reply to environment.
The manifestations of life are not manifestations of some intrinsic energy,
-- there is no intrinsic power in life.
protoplasm which is alive has the power, or the quality, or the characteristic,
of using in certain manners the forces of the inanimate world. The
living protoplasm has no force in itself, any more than any engine has
force in itself. This consideration is one of a certain importance.
It is not essential that this fact be absolutely granted, but it is essential
that every student of the phenomena of health and disease shall understand
the nature of the problems which are offered for solution. This consideration
rests upon the elemental facts of biological phenomena.
The Reply of the Cell.
any cell is to preserve its identity the reply which it makes to its environment
must, in a sense, be a selfish one. Every change in the environment
must be made a source of energy. Food is a source of energy which
is chiefly potential but is also kinetic in some degree. The sunshine,
heat, electricity, all that is in the environment of any living cell, may
be made a source of either potential or kinetic energy, or may induce a
display of energy by stimulating increased metabolism, or it may serve
as an energy sparer, either by being a non-conductor of heat, or by serving
as a protection from other elements of the environment which might be a
source of danger. There is no element in the environment of the cell
which may not offer some factors in the problems which the cell has to
The Source of Mental Energy.
source of mental energy, even the recognition of the most simple truth,
depends upon changes in the environment. For mental strength, the
changes in the environment must affect consciousness. The sensory
nerves offer the only permeable pathway to the cerebral cortex, and there
is at present no physiological basis for considering consciousness as affected
in any other manner than by changes in the activity of the nerve cells
in the cerebral cortex. It is evident that this activity depends
upon the normal metabolism of the cortical neurons.
power that we possess, every action that we produce, every word and every
thought, depend upon these two factors, the changes in environment, and
the nature of the reply to these changes. Our own actions are merely
the manifestation of forces derived from the physical world and translated
into the terms of our own lives. One may write a poem with the strength
derived from the oxidation of raw meat ;he may win a battle on toast and
milk. The body is no more able to create energy than it is to create
matter. There is no magic by means of which the cell or the body
of a billion cells may be induced to do ten pounds of work on a six ounce
diet, any more than there is some magic by which a fifty dollar clerk can
live a hundred dollar life. In either case, the attempt is very apt
to result in disaster.
No Royal Road to Health.
older schools of practice were built upon a misconception of these facts.
It has been supposed from time immemorial that by some priest-craft, or
magic, or by the use of various drugs and simples, that the organs of the
body might be induced to act more energetically than the state of their
nutrition would warrant, and this to the upbuilding of the health of the
is true that any of these things may increase the activities far in excess
of the energy output warranted by the nutritive condition of the cells
of the body. If the cell possesses reserves of the complex molecules
wherein are stored the potential energies of the cell, this evolution of
energy may not be followed by any serious injury. But if the cells
of the body were properly supplied with energy, the need for the drug probably
would not be apparent. It is not usual for the normal cell to be
subjected to abnormal stimulation. It is true that there are some
people who do take medicine to keep themselves well, but these are scarcely
to be considered seriously.
normal conditions, all cells, or nearly all cells, store within their bodies
certain substances, variable in nature, which serve as reserves of potential
energy. These are alike in some characteristics, though they differ
so widely in function. They are all very complex in their molecular
structure, and are so unstable that almost any change in the environment
of the cell initiates their disintegration, with a corresponding evolution
of energy. After these reserves are exhausted, stimulation of the
cell may still cause a discharge of energy, but in this case the energy
is produced at the expense of the cell structure.
chromatolysis of the neuron has been very closely studied in this connection.
The normal, rested neuron contains granules of a very complex nature, somewhat
resembling nuclei in chemical structure, which are recognized only by their
staining reactions. In the resting cell these granules, when properly
fixed and stained, appear as rather large, angular masses lying in the
meshes of the cytoplasm. The form and arrangement of these granules
vary in different neurons. They are called Nissl’s granules, after
the name of their first describer. Nissl himself called them “tigroid
substances.” They are not found in the nucleus, in the axon, nor
in a small area around the exit of the axon called the “implantation cone”
or “axon hillock.”
Effects of Fatigue.
the cell which has been fatigued before death, or poisoned, or subjected
to the action of various abnormal conditions, the tigroid substance cannot
be demonstrated in any normal manner. If the fatigue has been slight,
the change may also be slight. But they are then found in smaller
and smaller masses, with more and more difficulty in staining; and, after
prolonged fatigue or mal-treatment the granules disappear completely, sometimes
not even leaving a diffuse color in the cytoplasm.
these cases of excessive injury, it is doubtful if recovery ever takes
place, but very marked loss of the tigroid substance may be followed by
recovery if the achromatic substance has been uninjured. That is,
the cell is probably able to recover after the loss of all, or nearly all,
of the tigroid substance which represents the reserve energy of the neuron,
but it is seriously injured, and its ultimate recovery is doubtful, after
the intrinsic cell structure is injured. It is very evident that
stimulation of the fatigued cell may result in structural changes which
are absolutely incurable as the result of an effort to secure the appearance
of normal function under abnormal conditions. The neuron that is
simply fatigued, even to the point of almost complete destruction of the
tigroid masses needs only rest for its recovery; but this same neuron subjected
to efficient stimulation, and forced to further evolution of energy may
undergo irremediable injury.
Exhaustion of Muscle.
muscles are protected from the effects of over work by the fact that the
motor nerve endings are very easily fatigued. The muscle is thus
freed from the motor impulses from the central nervous system before it
is exhausted. This relationship is not an absolute protection, however,
for it is possible for the muscles to remain contracted so long under circumstances
of unusual stress, that an atrophy of the muscle results.
a rule, the symptoms of disease do not attract attention until the depletion
of the reserves has occurred. An abnormal stimulation may then cause
the destructive evolution of energy. The apparent symptoms of the
disease are thereby lessened, but ultimate recovery is retarded.
principle is as true of an excess of the normal stimulation as of the use
of the abnormal methods. Persistent overwork, especially under the
influence of an emotional strain, is followed by a degree of exhaustion
from which recovery is difficult and tedious. The absurdity of trying
to overcome such conditions by efforts of the will power is evident.
Mental conditions govern, they do not make or destroy energy. Inasmuch
as they control many forms of physical activity, they must be considered
as important factors in physiology and pathology and therapeutics, but
it must not be forgotten that the only source of energy is the environment,
and that every cell must be given, in the form of food, or air, or light,
all the energy which it displays as muscular work, or nerve impulse, or
is just as rational to suppose that an amputated limb can be restored by
the use of drugs, or by “will power,” as to expect these things to add
energy to physiological activities. These things compel the evolution
of energy stored in the cell, perhaps as reserve force, perhaps as cell
structure; the ultimate effect of this unusual stimulation depends upon
the presence or absence of reserve forces. If these be present in
sufficient quantity to meet the unusual demands, no greater harm than a
waste of energy may result, but if the cells contain little or no reserve
force, the reply of the cell must be secured at the expense of cell structure.
The process may be compared to the old mills for grinding grain,--if there
is no grist and the mill is turned, the mill-stones grind themselves away.
Emotions and Katabolism.
influence of urgent volitional efforts and of various emotional attitudes
upon the cells of the body may be mentioned in this connection. The
emotional expressions are coordinated by the neurons of the basal ganglia.
The structural relations of these ganglia with the cerebral cortex are
such as to render the volitional impulses greatly increased in their power
and in their effects upon the metabolism of the body when they are associated
with emotional impulses. The effect of these impulses is always to
increase katabolism. It is thus much easier for the body to become
exhausted in the presence of intense emotional strain than under normal
conditions. This is due in part to the partial unconsciousness of
bodily conditions associated with emotional stress, but it is chiefly due
to the katabolic effect of the emotional impulses themselves. The
occurrence of fear, or anger, or what not, does not add energy to the body;
it only forces a more complete evolution of energy from the reserve forces
of the cells, and, after their exhaustion, from the cell structure itself.
The serious prostration which follows urgent effort under conditions of
emotional stress is evidence in favor of this view.
use of such simple and apparently harmless stimuli as heat and cold, water
of various temperatures, massage, the increase of the patient’s volitional
endeavor, may in certain instances, though rarely, initiate an increase
of cell activity at the expense of cell structure, and thus retard recovery.
The exhaustion produced by the excessive use of these milder forms of stimulation
is rarely sufficient to cause more than temporary injury.
A.—In some instances the use of abnormal forms of stimulation may
be of value. In some cases where the normal stimulation is temporarily
lacking, some unusual form may be substituted. The most noteworthy
instance of this condition is found in cases of nerve injury. If
a nerve has been cut, and its regeneration is hoped for, this result is
more quickly and certainly secured if the muscles in the area of distribution
of the injured nerve be kept in a normal condition. This can only
be done by means of exercise. In the absence of nerve impulses, the
exercise of the muscles is most efficiently secured by the judicious use
of electricity. The muscles thus receive the nearest approach possible
to their normal environment.
The relation of Trophic to Nervous Functions in the Neuron, by L. F. Barker,
in “The Nervous System.”