Alexis St. Martin's Stomach
An understanding of the complex mechanisms of gastric juice secretion began with an American army doctor, William Beaumont (1785-1853). He was able to directly observe the process of digestion in the stomach from the wound of a soldier named Alexis St. Martin.
In 1822, Beaumont treated the soldier for an accidental gunshot wound. This wound left a large hole in the left side of St. Martin's body, tearing away parts of the ribs, muscles, and stomach wall. When the wound healed, the stomach wall had grown to the outer body wall, leaving a permanent hole from the outer body to the interior of the stomach. When St. Martin ate, bandages were needed to keep the food in place. For the first time in medical history, a physician was able to study the inner workings of the stomach. Beaumont's observations and experiments on St. Martin's stomach extended over 11 years.
In that time, he observed the secretion of gastric juice and placed the fluid from St. Martin's stomach on a piece of meat. There he could observe the digestion of protein. He was also able to observe the churning movements of the stomach when food entered it. Beaumont's investigation of St. Martin's stomach laid the groundwork for later investigations into the complexities of the digestive process.
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