Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Technic Lost, Technic Regained: a view, an update

In what can only be described as spooky action at a distance, a physician alerted me to the March 25 installment of "JAMA 100 years ago", a regular feature of the Journal of the American Medical Association. (subscription required)

In this issue, a short piece from 1909 is reprinted for the amusement and/or edification (it's never clear to me which the editors are shooting for) of modern readers. The piece is entitled "Medical history and non-medical writers." While my correspondent intended to call out to me the use of a quote from Plato's Charmides, what really caught my eye was the final sentence.
Medical science, like other sciences, has grown too self-conscious and too careful of her own reputation ever again to leave to the chance layman the task of recording methods and technic.
Wha?? Weren't we just talking about lost technic? To be fair, the lost technic we were seeking was buried by history, not necessarily left "to the chance layman" (although, I find it pretty ironic that this chance layman was the one put on the hunt to ferret it back out).

And for the curious: the technic we've been tracking for the past several days has been the procedure (or procedures, as it turns out) for removing the adrenal medulla from higher lab animals and humans while leaving the adrenal cortex intact. The most complete description we've found to date for the procedure in humans is from David H. Boggild's 1948 article "cases of affection of the vascular system treated by bilateral suprarenal medullectomy" (Acta Chir Scand. 1948 Feb 28;96(4):317-22), where I was surprised to find it being used as a treatment for Raynaud's Disease. Funny what you learn on the way to finding The Answer....

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