(b. Verona, Italy, 14 November 1892; d. Padua, Italy, 4 March 196l)
Meneghetti was the son of Umberto Meneghetti and Clorinda Stegagno; both his father and grandfather were physicians. He attended school in Verona, then entered the University of Padua, where from 1913 to 1914 he worked under Luigi Sabbatani, director of the Institute of Pharmacology. He graduated Cum laude in 1916, Meneghetti was named chief of the pharmacology laboratory in 1919; in 1922 he became teacher of experimental pharmacology. In 1926 he left Padua to take up a similar post at Camerino. Two years later he accepted an appointment at the University of Palermo, then, in 1932, returned to Padua as professor of pharmacology. He was chosen rector of the university in 1945 after the Liberation, and in 1951 founded the Centro di Studio per la Chemoterapia there.
Meneghetti’s first important scientific work, in 1921, concerned the relationship of the hemolytic and fixative actions of metals to their place in the table of atomic weights. He used the techniques of quantitative biophysics to demonstrate that such actions increase in intensity as the ionic tension of the metallic solution decreases. He was also concerned with technology; in 1925 he improved the apparatus by which artifical circulation could be maintained in the isolated heart of a frog. By 1928, however, he had formulated the basis for his subsequent researches; in his inaugural lecture at the University of Palermo, given on 5 March of that year, Meneghetti stated that experimental biochemistry and cell physiology must constitute the basis of modern pharmacology.
The greatest part of Meneghetti’s pharmacological contributions concern the occasionally overlapping fields of colloids and toxicology. His first work on colloids was his article über die pharmakologischen Wirkung des kolloidalen Arsensulfids, published in 1921. He developed this line of inquiry in a series of works, written between 1924 and 1934, on the trivalent and pentavalent compounds of antimony and in articles (in 1930 and 1937) on the salts of silver, gold, and copper. He demonstrated that substances that are of limited solubility in water may be introduced into the circulatory system (or injected locally) in the colloidal state.
In a series of researches conducted between 1924 and 1926 Meneghetti showed a specific effect of colloidal sulfur of antimony when it is injected into a vein. He was able to demonstrate that it lodged in the histiocytes of the bone marrow, thereby disrupting erythropoiesis, as is evidenced by the appearance of immature erythrocytes in the blood. (Two conditions are necessary to the observation of this erythroneocytosis—the granules of the colloidal preparation must be extremely fine, and the injection must be made slowly; otherwise the substance is exhibited more strongly in the macrophagic reticuloendothelial cells of the lungs and liver.) Meneghetti’s proof that erythroblasts can be produced in the blood by the fixation of a toxic substance in the reticuloendothelial cells of the bone marrow was a major contribution toward the understanding of the pathogenesis of blood diseases (see his very important work Emopatia primitiva da solfuro di antimonio colloidale ).
Meneghetti devoted ten works to toxicology between 1928 and 1936. In them he examined the efficacy of the therapeutic use of sodium thiosulfate and tetrathionate to counter mercury, lead, and cyanide poisoning. In 1936 he also conducted research on the thiazinic dyes, including methylene blue and toluidin blue, two highly dispersed electropositive colloids, and on the action, similar to that of digitalis, of alkaloid substances derived from Erythrophtoeum (work which was developed in 1939 by Meneghetti’s student Renato Santi). In the same year, too, he returned to the study of the reticuloendothelial system to demonstrate the presence of histiocytes in the pulmonary alveoli. In his article “Il polmone come sede di azione e come via di assorbimento di farmaci,” Meneghetti posited a relationship between the activity of these alveolar cells and the absorption of drugs into the lung, a new route for the chemotherapeutic treatment of infectious diseases, He further took up the question of the special conditions that might macrophagically fix such electropositive colloids as the cupric oxide in the lung: in particular he noted the relation of blood coagulability to cell permeability, and therefore to granulopexis.
Meneghetti conducted a long series of investigations of the factors that can modify the relation between the degree of dispersion of colloids and the intensity of their action. In 1939 he drew upon his results to state that such highly stable colloids as the electropositive ones have a rapid and intense action that recommends them for pharmacological use. He thus completed some of his earlier researches; a decade before, he had pronounced the colloidal state to be the “pharmacological” one. In later work (1943 and 1954) he went on to investigate the relationship between the molecular structure and pharmacological action of the sulfa drugs and antibiotics.
Meneghetti wrote more than a hundred scientific works. He was also concerned with the history of medicine and with social problems—his book Biologia rivoluzionaria was published posthumously in 1962. He was a humanist and a patriot; he was decorated four times for valor in World War I, and in World War II, in which he lost both his wife and his daughter in an air raid, he showed equal courage as a member of the Resistance.
I. Original Works. Among Meneghetti’s earliest publications is a brief Curriculum vitae (Padua, 1925). His inaugural lecture at the University of Palermo is “Chimismo, forma, funzione e fenomeni colloidali,” in Biochimica e terapia sperimentale, 15 (1928), 77–98. His Elementi di Farmacologia (Padua, 1934) went through many eds. and revisions; the 9th ed. was entitled Farmacologia, 2 vols. (Padua, 1958). Meneghetti wrote more than 100 articles on his research, including reports on the toxicology of arsenic, erythrocytes, antimony, sulfur, and the histiocytic system, For a complete bibliography, see Renato Santi, “Commemorazione …” (below).
Meneghetti published two reports on his chemotherapy study center, “Centro di Studio per la Chemoterapia. Attività svolta nel quinquennio 1951–1955,” in Ricerea scientifica, 26 (1956), 72–99; and “Cetro di Studio … 1956–1960;” ibid., 30 (1960), 2228–2240. He also contributed many articles to Enciclopedia medica italiana (Rome, 1952), Two works were published posthumously, Biologia rivoluzionaria (Padua, 1962); and Poesie e prose (Vicenza, 1963), with a preface by E. Opacher and D. Valeri, which is a collection of works showing his civil and social concerns.
II. Secondary Literature. See M. Aloisi, “Ricordo di Egidio Meneghetti nell’anniversario della sua morte,” in Atti dell’ Accademia nazionale dei Lincei. Rendiconti, fasc. 2 (1962), 78–83; A. Cestari, “In memoria di Egidio Meneghetti,” in Ricerea scientifica, 2nd ser., 1 , pt. 1 (1961), 123–128; M. Messinl, “Egidio Meneghetti a un anno dalla morte” in Clinica terapeutica. 22 (1962), 461465; and R. Santi, “Egidio Meneghetti,” in Archivio italiano di scienze farmacolohiche, 3rd ser., 11 (1961), 183186; and “Commemorazione di Egidio Meneghetti,” in Annuario dell’ Université di Padova (Padua, 1963), which contains a complete bibliography of Meneghetti’s writings.