It will be seen from the above that we have studied the conditions associated with the deposit of calcareous salts: (I) in connection with normal and pathological ossification, and (2) in pathological calcification as exhibited in (a) atheroma of the vessels; (b) calcification of caseating tubercular lesions; (c) calcification of inflammatory new growth, and (d) degenerating tumors; and we have induced experimentally deposits of calcareous salts in the lower animals: (a) within celloidin capsules containing fats and soaps; (b) in the kidney, and (c) in connection with fat necrosis.
I. We have found that bone formation and pathological calcareous infiltration are wholly distinct processes. In the former there is no evidence of associated fatty change, and the cells associated with the process of deposition of calcium are functionally active. In the latter there is an antecedent fatty change in the affected areas, and the cells involved present constant evidences of degeneration. The view that would seem to account best for the changes observed in the latter case is that with lowered vitality the cells are unable to utilize the products brought to them by the blood, or which they continue to absorb, so that the normal series of decompositions associated with their metabolism fails to take place and hence they interact among themselves in the cytoplasm with the result that insoluble compounds replace soluble ones.
II. Besides the fact that calcification is always preceded by fatty change within the cells, another fact should be emphasized. namely: that combination of the fats present with calcium salts to form calcium soaps tends to occur. The stages immediately preceding these are difficult to follow with anything approaching certainty, perhaps because the earlier stages vary under different conditions. In fat necrosis, for instance, the cells affected are normally storehouses for neutral fats, and as long as they remain healthy neutral fats alone are present in them. When they are subjected to the action of the pancreatic juice with its fat-splitting ferment the cells are killed and coincidently the neutral fats are decomposed, fatty acids being deposited. The fatty acids now slowly combine with the calcium salts. In degenerating lipomata the process would seem to be similar.
But in other cases the cells are not obviously fat-containing in the normal state; nevertheless prior to calcification they undergo so-called fatty degeneration, which is really a form of cell degeneration accompanied by fat infiltration. As regards the source of the cell fats in general we may safely accept:
1. That fats are transported in the blood as diffusible soaps.
2. That taken up by the cells these soaps may either—
(a) Be reconverted into neutral fats and become stored in the cytoplasm as such, or
(b) undergo assimilation proper, becoming part and parcel of the cell substance, in which case they are not recognizable by the ordinary microchemical tests.
3. If these two possibilities be accepted it follows that the appearance of fats and soaps in the degenerating cell may be due to either—
(a) Absorption or infiltration of soaps from the surrounding medium, the degenerating cell retaining the power of splitting off the fat but being unable to utilize this in metabolism.
(b) Cytoplasmic disintegration with dissociation of the soap-albumen combination or, more broadly, liberation of the fats from their combination with the cytoplasm.
The appearances seen in the cells of atheromatous areas indicate that the first of these does occur.
III. In areas undergoing calcareous infiltration we have demonstrated. the presence of soaps, and this often in such quantities that they can be isolated and estimated by gross chemical methods. By microchemical methods also we have been able to show that after removing all the neutral fats and fatty acids by petroleum ether there remains behind a substance giving with Sudan III the reaction we associate with the presence of soap. And experimentally we have produced these soaps within the organism, more particularly by placing capsules containing fats and fatty acids within the tissues and after several days finding that the capsules contain calcium soaps and possess a calcium content far in excess of that of the normal blood and lymph.
IV. While these are the facts, certain of the details of this reaction demand elucidation. The existence of sodium and it may be potassium soaps in the degenerated cells is comprehensible if we accept that these are present in the circulating lymph and simply undergoing absorption. But even then, as these are diffusible substances how is it to be explained that they become stored up in these particular areas?
We have found that, as a matter of fact, in regions which give the reaction for soaps, but which give no reaction for calcium (which therefore presumably contain at most amounts of the insoluble calcium soap too small to need consideration, the ordinary solvents for potassium and sodium soaps do not forthwith remove the stainable material; they are relatively insoluble.
The reason for this insolubility is suggested by the observations made in the test tube, that soap solutions mixed with solutions of white of egg or blood serum form a precipitate of combined soap and albumen, which likewise is insoluble in water and alcohol. The indications are therefore that in cells undergoing degeneration, with degeneration of the cytoplasm, certain albuminous molecules unite with the soaps present to form relatively insoluble soap-albuminate.
V. With regard to calcium soaps, these are also present and in certain stages appear to be the dominating form in the affected tissues. Two questions suggest themselves, viz.: what is the source of calcium, and what is the process by which they become formed?
As to the source, the amount present in well-marked calcification is far in excess of the normal calcium contents of the affected tissue. If in the kidneys of experimental calcification three hundred times as much calcium may be present as in the normal kidney (von Kossa), the calcium must be conveyed to the part by the blood and lymph, and that this is so is demonstrated, as we have pointed out, by the distribution of the infiltration in solid organs, that like ovarian fibroids have undergone necrosis, in which the earliest deposits are superficial.
As to the process, there are three possibilities:
1. That sodium and potassium soaps and soap albuminates are first formed and that interaction occurs between them and the diffused calcium salts from the lymph, the less soluble-calcium replacing the sodium and potassium.
2. That under certain conditions the calcium salts act directly on the neutral fats present in the degenerating cells.
3. That the neutral fats are first broken down into fatty acids and that these react with the calcium salts to form the soaps.
We are assured that the first process occurs and that because in the boundary zone of areas of calcification we can detect soapy particles devoid of calcium, identical in position and arrangement with the particles more deeply placed which give the calcium reactions. But this is not the only reaction. In case of fat necrosis we see clearly that the third process is in evidence. And we are far from being convinced that the second does not also obtain. We have been impressed by the large accumulation of neutral fats in the cells in cases of early atheroma and the absence at any stage of the process of recognizable fatty acid. While soaps, it is true, are compounds of fatty acids with alkalies, it is recognized in ordinary domestic life that they can be formed by the direct action of strong lye upon ordinary fats, and this even in the cold. It is quite possible therefore that there occurs a similar direct process in the organism.
The point is worth noting, however, that this does not occur in healthy cells the seat of fatty infiltration. We therefore leave this an open question, only laying down that, as indicated by the hyalin albuminous matrix left when calcium salts are dissolved out of an area of calcification, there must exist a calcium soap- or fat-albuminate similar to the potassium and sodium soap-albuminates already mentioned—such an albuminate as we can form with calcium soaps in the test tube.
VI. In old areas of calcification soaps are largely if not entirely wanting, although these are to be detected at the periphery, when the process is still advancing. The reactions given by these older areas are almost entirely those of calcium phosphate, though some calcium carbonate is at times to be made out.
This seems surely to indicate that the final stage in calcification is an interaction between the calcium soap-albuminates and substances containing phosphoric and carbonic acids. Such substances, it is needless to say, are present in considerable amounts in the lymph and blood. We must conclude that the acid sodium phosphates of the lymph act on the calcium soap, the highly insoluble calcium phosphates being formed (plus the albuminous moiety of the original compound) and diffusible sodium soap being liberated, while similarly alkaline carbonates form calcium carbonate and liberate sodium and potassium soaps. Calcium phosphate and calcium carbonate thus become the insoluble earthy salts of old crystalline areas of calcification.
VII. As already stated very little soap is to be found in these old areas. It is possibly worth suggestion that the soaps liberated in this last reaction, as they diffuse out, again react with diffusible calcium salts and form calcium soaps which once more react with the alkaline salts to produce the phosphates and carbonates; that, in short, they have a katalytic action. Certain it is that old calcareous areas are extraordinarily dense, and have a coarse crystalline structure, wholly at variance with the finely granular appearance of the more recent areas, and these large crystalline masses, it would seem, can only be formed by successive deposition of new material and eventual fusion, as the interspaces become filled in between the original masses.