Welcome to the seventh enlightening post of Medicine Through Islamic History series By The Desert Rose.
One of the first experimental models utilized in clinical research was investigating how the stomach functions in a live lion.
This was done by a physician called Ahmad ibn Abi Al-Ash’ath in 959 which is almost 900 years before William Beaumont whom the latter was known as Father of Gastric Physiology.
Al-Ash’ath described the process in his book called Al Quadi wa Al-Muqtadi where he wrote the following:
When food enters the stomach, especially when it is plentiful, the stomach dilates and its layers get stretched...onlookers thought the stomach was rather small, so I proceeded to pour jug after jug in its throat…the inner layer of the distended stomach became as smooth as the external peritoneal layer. I then cut open the stomach and let the water out. The stomach shrank and I could see the pylorus.
There are many similarities in how the lion and human stomach works. In each organism, the stomach comprises of the fundus, body and pylorus (distal area). The proximal area comprises of the fundus and body and consists of a thin wall that is responsible to store large amounts of food. The distal area is where peristaltic contractions take place where food is mixed and propelled before entering the duodenum (small intestine).
However, if one was to consider the whole anatomy and physiology of how the digestive system looks like, there are several differences. The lion does not have a rectum, the large intestine is smaller than humans, digestion is more rapid because they have more digestive juice comprising of enzymes and bile is stored in the liver whereas in the human bile is stored in the gall bladder.
On the contrary, the physiology of the stomach is similar because gastric peristalsis, the process of muscle contraction and wave forces does occur in order to produce chyme; the product comprising of propelled food with gastric fluid.
His book is preserved in the British Museum, Supplement 786.
Haddad, F. (2007). Interventional Physiology on the Stomach of a Live Lion: Ahmad ibn Abi al-Ash'ath (959 AD). Journal of the Islamic Medical Association of North America, 39(1).
Stevens, C. and Hume, I. (1996). Comparative physiology of the vertebrate digestive system. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.