Medicine

Newfound 'organ' could be the biggest in your body

Newfound 'organ' could be the biggest in your body

Scientists prepare tissue this examination by treating it with chemicals, slicing it thinly, and dying it to highlight key features.

While researchers not involved in the study agree that the interstitium likely plays diverse roles in the human body, they are reticent to call it a new organ. It's made up of widespread, fluid-filled spaces in and between tissues all over the body.

It's been more than 2,000 years since Hippocrates first came up with the foundation of modern medicine, so you'd be forgiven for thinking doctors have identified all the organs in the human body already. But this process causes the fluid-filled cavities to collapse.

"This discovery will open up new research pathways for inflammation and cancer progression". In 2017, an organ known as the mesentery, which was previously believed to be just fragmented structures in the digestive system, was officially confirmed as a distinct organ.

Importantly, the interconnected spaces drain to the lymph nodes and act as a carriageway for interstitial fluid, which could help to explain how cancers metastasize.

For this, an endoscope was fitted with a small camera probe that can function as a microscope to peer inside a human body.

If it's confirmed to be an organ - or a group of tissues with a unique structure performing a specific task - it would take the skin's place as the largest organ in the human body.

One of its main functions, scientists believe, is to absorb shock and protect the moving parts of the body. Neil Theise, a pathologist at New York University School of Medicine, looked at their findings.

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Co-authors of the study David Carr-Locke and Petros Constantinos Benias have first encountered interstitium in 2015 while they investigate a bile duct from a cancer patient.

LiveScience notes these discoveries are also reflected in a 2011 study, which signaled the existence of a network of dark fibers in association with several cases of bile duct cancer, but didn't offer an explanation as to what it was. When a pathologist made slides out of this tissue, the cavities disappeared-a mystery that was later found to be a effect of the slide-making process.

But when the endoscopic laser was used to remove the pancreas and bile duct in a dozen patients with cancer, the odd spaces became obvious.

The scientists then compared the biopsies with healthy tissue samples, yielding the same result: the network of fluid-filled compartments was unequivocally there. They suggest that these spaces could be compressed or stretched, and therefore act as "shock absorbers" in the body.

It's the tissue around arteries that gets squeezed with every pulse of your heart, Theise said. On microscopy they found that spaces were seen where fluid can collect. Indeed, the researchers plan to conduct a review of the scientific literature "for all the things we know about this [body part] but didn't know we knew it", Theise said.

Dr. Michael Nathanson, professor of medicine and cell biology and chief of the section of digestive diseases at Yale University School of Medicine, is of similar opinion.

"In describing this new layer of organised cells, the "interstitium", the researchers realised such tissue is the immediate route for cancer cells to leave their origin and migrate into the lymphatic vessels", he said.


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