Edith Bülbring - Biography - Smooth Muscle 1950–1990

Smooth Muscle 1950–1990

Bülbring's interest in smooth muscle was borne from frustration with their unpredictable responses. She has been quoted saying: "Using them for assays and always finding them totally incomprehensible; I just could not understand their behavior: why they would contract one time and relax the next hour to the same dose, at the same temperature, in the same conditions, and so forth. All these things upset me to such a degree that I did not want to work with them in this way anymore unless I understood them."

In 1953 Gustav Born joined Bülbring in her work initiating a collaboration that became the origin of her smooth muscle group. Early on with the group, she researched the metabolism and passive electrical properties of smooth muscle. She also studied the role that serotonin plays in peristalsis in the small intestine. She innovated a double sucrose gap apparatus that she used in her experiments. Bülbring was concerned with the effect that neurotransmitters, particularly acetylcholine and adrenaline, have on smooth muscle tension. She published three papers on taeniae in 1969 which concluded that the hyperpolarization of the membrane that can be observed following the application of adrenaline is a result of the membrane's increased permeability to chloride and potassium.

Bülbring was known to have a strong respect for her colleagues and their work. She encouraged people to develop their techniques, skills and be independent scientists. She always showed great ability to obtaining funds for her work, creating relationships with charities, councils and industry partners. These capacities combined allowed for the group to build a large research group.

Bülbring's influence and work throughout a 40-year span allowed the fledgling field of smooth muscle to burgeon. The techniques developed in her laboratory led to increasing knowledge of the physiology of smooth muscle, and the activities of the many scientists who spent time working with her spread her interest and enthusiasm for the in depth study of this type of tissues all over the world.

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