Scientists might have discovered a new organ in the human body that was not recognised before. This newly identified organ is called the interstitium and is basically a network of interconnected, fluid-filled spaces all over the body, according to the research published online on 27 March 2018 in the journal Scientific Reports.
Dr Neil Theise, a pathologist at the New York University School of Medicine said that this potential organ serves as a fluid-filled shock absorber throughout the body and that it could recognised as the largest human organ, if scientifically verified.
How was the organ discovered?
The interstitium was first discovered in 2015 by endoscopists Dr David Carr-Locke and Dr Petros Benias at Mount Sinai Beth Israel medical centre in New York.
They were examining a patient’s bile duct for cancer when they noticed the interconnected passages through a microscope.
What they saw resulted in more research lead by Dr Theise.
The recently published study now suggests that this network of passages, made up from dense tissue and fluid-filled compartments, can indeed be seen as a proper organ since it is a unique structure of tissue performing a specialised task, just like the heart or liver.
The interstitium is found throughout the body, just underneath the skin and in the digestive, respiratory and urinary systems.
It consists of both strong (collagen) and flexible (elastin) connective tissue proteins, with interstitial fluid moving throughout, which drains into the lymphatic system. It is said to be the source of lymph, which is vital to the functioning of inflammation-causing immune cells.
"There are no pictures of it. There are no illustrations of the construct," Dr Theise said. "It's just there."
What could this discovery mean?
Research on the interstitium could give better insight on how cancer cells and other diseases are transported through the body, according to The New Scientist. It is understood that cancer cells can spread from the original site to other parts of the body and the lymphatic system through these fluid-filled spaces of the interstitium.
This represents a better understanding of how cancerous tumours spread and how they can be treated, says Dr Theise.
Further research needed
Whether the interstitium can be seen as an actual organ or not will be determined by a series of further studies and scientific verification. But for now, the awareness of the interstitium reflects "a significant reassessment of anatomy affecting every organ of the body," Dr Theise said.
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