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Journal of Experimental Medicine
The Rockefeller University Press
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  • Article


The following general conclusions may be drawn from the preceding work: Fibrin is altered by formaldehyde and is then less easily digested by pepsin and by trypsin. Papaïn is apparently unable to digest fibrin even when this is exposed to very weak formaldehyde (1:1000) for a very short time. The casein of milk, on contact with formaldehyde, undergoes rapid alteration and is as a result not coagulated by rennet, or but very slowly. Such altered casein, like similar fibrin, is not readily digested by the proteolytic ferments. The longer the formaldehyde acts on casein and on fibrin the more marked is the result. Pepsin is not affected by a one per cent solution of formaldehyde, even when the mixture has stood for four weeks. Even a five per cent solution of formaldehyde acting for three weeks has no effect on pepsin. Contrary results obtained by others are due to an alteration of the fibrin by the formaldehyde. A putrid solution of pepsin in distilled water one month old digests fibrin as readily as a fresh solution. Rennet is not affected even by a four per cent solution of formaldehyde acting for several weeks. The absence of coagulation at times is due to the action of formaldehyde on the casein of the milk and not on the rennet ferment. Papaïn is very quickly altered by formaldehyde, even in very dilute solution. Moreover, it is unable to digest fibrin that has been exposed to the action of a very dilute solution of formaldehyde for a short time. Trypsin is altered by formaldehyde to such an extent that digestion of fibrin will not take place, or but very slowly. The extent to which trypsin is affected by formaldehyde depends largely upon the amount of organic matter present, as well as on the amount of ferment in the solution. Amylopsin is not destroyed by very dilute solutions of formaldehyde, but stronger solutions decrease the activity of the ferment, and if used in sufficient concentration will destroy it completely. Ptyalin, like the diastatic ferment of the pancreas, is not destroyed by dilute solutions of formaldehyde. If the latter is used in rather strong concentration and allowed to act for some time it will destroy the ferment. The action of formaldehyde is more rapid and more marked at a slightly elevated temperature than at ordinary room temperature. Malt diastase, unlike the diastatic ferments of the saliva and pancreatic solution, is not destroyed by formaldehyde when this is used in moderate amount and at ordinary temperature. Unlike pepsin, a solution of malt diastase readily undergoes decomposition on standing even for one or more days. This destruction is undoubtedly due to bacteria since it does not take place when formaldehyde is present. Consequently the favoring action which formaldehyde apparently exerts on diastase really consists in the inhibition of the growth of micro-organisms, and hence the diastase is protected against decomposition.

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