2016 was not such a great year by all measures except scientifically speaking; it was an excellent year for research and for science. We discovered gravitational waves, cooing dinosaurs and a lot that we didn’t know about the world around us. But we also discovered one amazingly cool thing about our own organism as well, as one new study revealed.
Published in The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology, the latest study reveals that scientists have officially discovered a new organ inside the human body. Yes, you read right, we’ve got a whole new organ inside our abdominal cavity and it’s only just been classified.
Scientists have called it the mesentery (“in the middle of the intestines”) and we all have it in our digestive system. It was Leonardo Da Vinci who first described the organ but until 2012 it was thought to be a series of separate structures keeping the intestines attached to the abdominal wall, like a series of support girders.
A group of researchers from the University of Limerick decided to examine this structure and via complex microscopy work they wanted to see if the structures are all interconnected and to confirm they’re all part of one structure. Their research was mostly done on patients scheduled for an operation to remove most or all of their colon.
The structure was taught to medical students since 2012 as being a new organ and now they’ve added the description to the Gray’s Anatomy textbook.
Calvin Coffey, a professor of surgery at the University of Limerick and coordinating author of the study, said in a statement:
“In the paper, which has been peer reviewed and assessed, we are now saying we have an organ in the body which hasn’t been acknowledged as such to date.
They’ve managed to identify it and name it but what’s most intriguing is that medical experts are still unable to determine what’s the purpose of the mesentery.
Since it’s close to the intestines, researchers can assume it has something to do with digestion but they still can’t give any definitive conclusion yet.
“We have established anatomy and the structure. The next step is the function,” Coffey added. “If you understand the function you can identify abnormal function, and then you have disease. Put them all together and you have the field of mesenteric science…the basis for a whole new area of science.”
They’ve managed to determine that the mesentery has an active function because all there are blood vessels, lymphatic tubes and nerves which carry a blood plasma-like fluid go through the mesentery to the intestines. But the researchers point out that they need more information to discover what’s its function.