Corneille Heymans (1954) - On the Self-Regulation of the Arterial Pressure and Hypertension (German Presentation)

Corneille Heymans (1954)

On the Self-Regulation of the Arterial Pressure and Hypertension (German Presentation)

Corneille Heymans (1954)

On the Self-Regulation of the Arterial Pressure and Hypertension (German Presentation)

Comment

The Belgian Corneille Heymans holds a kind of a record in the number of different years that are connected to his Nobel Prize. When the prize decision was taken by the Karolinska Institutet in the autumn of 1939, he was awarded the prize of 1938, which had been reserved that year. Because of the war, only one Nobel Laureate came to Stockholm to receive his prize in 1939 (the Finnish author Frans Sillanpää). Heymans was instead given the prize in his hometown Ghent in the spring of 1940 and, after a long delay, he delivered his Nobel Lecture in Stockholm in 1945. When he came to the Lindau meeting in 1954, he brought with him a lecture about research that was fully in line with the research that made him a Nobel Laureate in 1939. At that time he had made a breakthrough in the understanding of the process of respiration, now he was studying the circulation of the blood. As so many other Nobel Prize awarded discoveries, both subjects belong to the realm of physiology. Heymans was, of course, aware of the phrasing of the will of Alfred Nobel stating one prize area as “physiology or medicine”, when at the end of his lecture he uses the phrase “the physiology of today is the medicine of tomorrow”! The medical problem he wanted to solve was high blood pressure and the way he used to reach this goal was by studying how the blood pressure is regulated. It is well known that the left side of the heart pushes the fresh blood out into the arteries so that it can reach, e.g., the brain and the muscles that need its oxygen. Then the used blood returns through the veins to the right side of the heart, gets its oxygen from the lungs and starts all over again. One could expect that the blood pressure would vary strongly with each heartbeat, but what Heymans describes is how a system of pressure sensitive nerves in the arteries registers the heart pulse and immediately acts to regulate the pressure by issuing chemical compounds that make the artery walls expand. If this self-regulating system fails, e.g. by the artery walls being affected by arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure may result. It is a curious fact, which may have been known by Heymans although he doesn’t comment on it in his lecture, that Alfred Nobel had high blood pressure and that his doctor prescribed nitroglycerine, the chemical compound on which Nobel had built his explosives producing empire from which the Nobel donation derives!

Anders Bárány

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