When faradic stimulation was undertaken of vessels irrigated with Ringer's solution, which alternately contained and was free from carbon dioxide, it was observed that the reaction was far less when the solution contained carbon dioxide. A reversal of the effect could be obtained many times. It appears, therefore, that when Ringer's solution contained carbon dioxide in the concentration described, the irritability of the vessels to electrical stimuli decreased, although carbon dioxide by itself and in the absence of the application of the stimuli, appeared to be void of effect upon the vessels. The rare, divergent results were traced to technical errors.
We attempted to discover whether the observed decrease in irritability of the vessels might not be due to the absence of oxygen. For this purpose we irrigated the vessels with Ringer's solution alternately containing nitrogen and oxygen. When nitrogen caused any change this was due to an influence on the rate of the heart and not on the irritability or reactivity of the arteries. In whatever way we tried we were unable to bring about a change in reactivity of the arteries by creating a condition of oxygen lack independently of a change in the rate of the heart beat.
We attempted to study also the effect of other acids beside carbon dioxide on the changed reactivity of the arteries. Irrigation with various concentrations of lactic acid was without result. We also employed solutions buffered with potassium and sodium phosphate. When the irrigation was undertaken with these solutions having a pH range varying from 7.7 to 5.9 we observed neither a direct action nor one which modified the preparation in such a way as to change its susceptibility to faradic stimulation.
Important investigations have been published recently by Atzler and Lehmann (2) on the direct influence of the hydrogen ion concentration on the behavior of blood vessels. Hammett and Zoll believed that, as the result of their experiments in which they attempted to bring about stimulation with solutions of concentrated carbon dioxide, they were able to exclude the possibility of action due to acid alone and therefore ascribed to carbon dioxide a specific effect. In our own experiments the method of irrigation does not permit an inference whether, or how far, an acid effect plays a rôle in the carbon dioxide experiments. For beside the question of hydrogen ion concentration and of buffering, the question of the penetration of substances from the surface to the contractile elements of the wall of the vessels requires to be considered. Carbon dioxide has an ability, beyond that of all other substances, to penetrate through tissues (3). It may be owing to this property that we could influence the reactivity of the blood vessels with it and it alone.
This possibility must be further investigated. In these experiments, however, it was our object to show only that it was possible to influence the irritability of blood vessels experimentally. The conclusion is justified by our experiments that carbon dioxide in small concentrations reduces the threshold of irritability for electrical stimuli of the blood vessels of the embryonic membrane.