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Medical Terminology Daily (MTD) is a blog sponsored by Clinical Anatomy Associates, Inc. as a service to the medical community, medical students, and the medical industry. We will post a workweek daily medical or surgical term, its meaning and usage, as well as biographical notes on anatomists, surgeons, and researchers through the ages. Be warned that some of the images used depict human anatomical specimens.

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A Moment in History

Thomas Willis, MD
Thomas Willis
(1621-1675)

An English physician and anatomist, Willis was born on his parents' farm in Great Bedwyn, Wiltshire, where his father held the stewardship of the Manor. He was a kinsman of the Willys baronets of Fen Ditton, Cambridgeshire. He graduated M.A. from Christ Church, Oxford in 1642. In the Civil War years he was a royalist, and was dispossessed of the family farm at North Hinksey by Parliamentary forces. In the 1640's Willis was one of the royal physicians to Charles I of England. He obtained his medical degree in 1646.

Thomas Willis might well be one of the greatest physicians of the 17th century.He is one of the founders of the Royal Society of London. He is remembered by his many publications, especially "Cerebri Anatome: Cui accessit Nervorum Descriptio et Usu", where he describes the arterial anastomoses at the base of the brain. This work is also the first detailed description of the vasculature of the brain. Willis described nine cranial nerves.

He is considered as the father of Neurology as a discipline. He used the term "neurology" for the first time in 1664. He described several neurological conditions

The Arterial Circle of Willis is a famous eponymous structure found at the base of the brain. It represents an anastomotic roundabout that connects the right and left sides as well as the carotid and vertebral arterial territories that supply the brain. Named after Thomas Willis, this structure was known well before him, but it was Willis who described its function.  If you click on the image or here, you will be redirected to a detailed description of this structure.

Sources:

1. "The legendary contributions of Thomas Willis (1621-1675): the arterial circle and beyond" Rengachary SS et al J Neurosurg. 2008 Oct;109(4):765-75
2. "Thomas Willis, a pioneer in translational research in anatomy (on the 350th anniversary of Cerebri anatome)" Arraez-AybarJournal of Anatomy, 03/2015, Volume 226, Issue 3
3. " The naming of the cranial nerves: A historical review" Davis, M Clinical Anatomy, 01/2014, Volume 27, Issue 1
4. "Observations on the history of the circle of Willis". Meyer A, Hieros, R.Med Hist 6:119–130, 1962


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Pemphigus / pemphigoid

The term pemphigus refers to a rare group of autoimmune intraepidermal diseases characterized by blistering, pustules, or vesicles on the skin and mucous membranes. The mode of action of the disease is still not clear, but a key component is acantholysis, the disruption of the normal mechanisms of intercellular adhesion, which leads to intraepidermal blister formation.

There are several types of presentations of this disease such as p. vulgaris, p. foliaceus, p. vegetans, etc. One catastrophic presentation of this disease is ocular cicatricial pemphigoid. The pemphigoid disease progresses creating a symblepharon (adhesive attachments between the conjunctiva covering the sclera and the mucosa covering the posterior aspect of the eyelids. Eventually the disease may extend over the cornea. The accompanying image depicts a case of complete keratinization of the ocular surface in a patient with ocular cicatricial pemphigoid.

Complete keratinization of the ocular surface in patient with ocular cicatricial pemphigoid
Complete keratinization of the ocular surface in patient with ocular cicatricial pemphigoid.
Click on the image for a larger depiction 
The root term pemphig- derives from the Greek [πεμφίγος] meaning a pustule or blister; the suffix -oid  is also Greek [ειδής] meaning “similar to” of “kind of”. Therefore the medical term pemphigoid means “similar to blisters”

There is discussion as to when was this word first used, but it looks as though it was first published in 1763 in the book “Pathologia Methodica Practica, seu de Cognoscendis Morbis” by the French physician and botanist Francois Boissier de la Croix de Sauvages (1706 – 1767)

Sources:
1. “Revue D’Histoire Des Sciences” Louis Dulieu, 1969
2. "Etymology of Pemphigus" Holubar, K. J Am Acad Dermat 1989:21, 155-156
3. "Pemphigus" Korman, N. J Am Acad Dermat 1988: 18/6  1219-38
4. “Ocular Cicatricial Pemphigoid” Khan R,. McDermott M., Hwang, F. Am Acad Ophthalm Eye Wiki https://eyewiki.aao.org/Ocular_cicatricial_pemphigoid

Image courtesy of EyeWiki