Paper - The histological appearances of the mammalian pituitary body

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Herring PT. The histological appearances of the mammalian pituitary body. (1908) Quar. Jour. Ex. Physiol. 1: 121-159.

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The Histological Appearances of the Mammalian Pituitary Body

By P. T. Herring.

From the Physiology Department, University of Edinburgh.

Received for publication 11th February 1908.


The structure and significance of the pituitary body have long been objects of much speculation. Erroneous conceptions of its structure are responsible for some of the many theories which have been advanced with regard to its functions. The pituitary, indeed, derives its name from the old idea that it was a gland which discharges a secretion—pituita—into the nostrils.

Rathke (32) discovered the double origin of the pituitary, and on developmental grounds classed it among glands. Other observers looked upon it as part of the brain. Luschka (23) called it a “nerve-gland” in which the two parts are separated from one another by pia mater. Ecker (8), on the other hand, held the view that both portions of the pituitary combine to form a unit of the nature of a “ blood-vessel gland.”

Burdach (4.-), Luschka (23), and Virchow (46) regarded the posterior lobe as the anterior terminal end of the cerebro-spinal canal, a “filum terminale anterius,” resembling in structure the filum terminale of the spinal cord. Virchow also compared the anterior lobe to the thyroid gland, and described in it vesicles containing colloid material which show a striking resemblance to the follicles of the thyroid. Rogowitsch (34), H. Stieda (43), Schonemann (39), and others have attached great importance to this resemblance, and ascribe similar functions to the two glands. Removal of the thyroid is, according to their observations, followed by a compensatory hypertrophy of certain parts of the glandular lobe of the pituitary.

In 1886 Marie drew attention to a relationship between changes in the pituitary and the disease acromegaly or gigantism. Clinical and pathological experiences have led to the theory which assigns to the pituitary the role of regulating the normal development of the body, more especially of the extremities and bones. The nature of the change that the pituitary undergoes in acromegaly is uncertain, and before any light can be thrown upon its pathology it is necessary that the significance of the various histological elements that constitute the normal pituitary should