J. J. Zarranz Neurosciences and History 2014;2(2):74-78
Type of article: SHORT ARTICLE
J.J. Zarranz Department of Neurology, Hospital de Cruces, Baracaldo; Department of Neurosciences, Faculty of Medicine. UPV/EHU, Spain.
Nicolás Achúcarro Lund (1880-1918) was a prestigious neurologist who was granted the title of Doctor Honoris Causa by Yale University. After finishing medical school in 1904, Nicolás chose Paris, Florence, and then Munich to complete his neurological training. He worked under Kraepelin and also in Alois Alzheimer's laboratory at a time that would be instrumental in cementing his calling as a neurohistologist. He defended his doctoral thesis, on the lesions caused by experimentally-induced rabies in rabbits, in Madrid in 1906. Achúcarro's main interest was the normal and pathological histology of glial cells, and he published more than 30 articles in four languages in less than a decade; some of these articles appeared in German journals. He proved himself ahead of his time not only by identifying individual astrocytes, but also by suggesting that they played secretory and metabolic roles even though neurotransmitter and cerebral metabolites were still unknown. His foresight also led him to hypothesise that rod cell astrocytes engaged in phagocytic activity. Using his own tannin and ammoniacal silver method -the Achúcarro stain- he obtained magnificent results in staining neuroglia and especially reticulin. Although Achúcarro died young, he made many important contributions to the field of neurology.