Scientists Discover New Human Organ By Chance

Phillip Cunningham
March 29, 2018

Scientists in the USA have identified a new human organ hiding in plain sight, in a discovery they hope will help understand how cancer spreads within the human body.

Researchers have established what they say represents a newfound human organ - the structure and distribution of spaces inside the human body.

The researchers' conclusions were that our understanding of the anatomy of the tissue in between the tissues and organs of the body should be revised as "rather than being densely-packed barrier-like walls of collagen, they are fluid-filled interstitial spaces".

Theise carried out the same procedure on himself, inspecting the skin under his own nose, and discovered similar results, which suggested the patterns are made up of fluid found throughout the body. "The claim that it is a hitherto undiscovered organ, and the largest one ever at that, seems a stretch", he cautions. "By this definition, the abdominal cavity and pleural spaces should be discrete organs" too, says Maitra. In living tissues the spaces are clearly seen.

The authors-led by gastroenterologist David Carr-Locke of Weill Cornell Medicine and pathologist Neil Theise of NYU Langone Health-lay out an explanation as to why this cushioning tissue has been missed in the past. This work has been made possible by advances in the technology we can use to look at tissue while it is still in the body.

With the pCLE, the researchers noticed an odd "reticular pattern" in the tissue around the bile duct they were examining.

The fluid-filled compartments are lined by unusual cells, the researchers note. "The more tissues I saw, the more I realized it's everywhere", he said. It turns out the dense connective tissue appearance was the artifact.

The interstitium lies beneath the skin's surface and lines other organ and muscles.

The system drains into the lymphatic system, and is said to be the source of lymph, which is vital to the functioning of inflammation-causing immune cells. Probably, according to scientists, it acts as a "shock absorber", preventing the rupture of the tissues of the organs, muscles and vessels after a shock, as the Athens News Agency writes.

More than half of this is found within the cells, and another seventh inside the heart, blood vessels, lymph nodes, and lymph vessels. "That would still require additional experiments to prove conclusively, but it is certainly within the realm of possibility".

Schematic of the fluid-filled space supported by a network of collagen bundles lined on one side with cells. The collagen fibers that act as the network's "skeleton" collapse, too. The imaging technique indeed showed the fluid-filled spaces in the connective tissue.

The idea presented in the study appears to be "a completely new concept", said Dr. Michael Nathanson, chief of the digestive diseases section at Yale University School of Medicine, who was not involved with the study.

The organ's true goal was finally discovered during a routine endoscopy looking at a patient's bile duct.

"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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