Discovery of the 79th human body organ

Researchers from the University Hospital Limerick in Ireland have discovered a new organ in the human body which has been lying hidden in the gastro intestinal tract the whole time. The discovery may provide answers to lots of unanswered questions about the human body.

medically accurate illustration of the human organs

The history of studying anatomy goes back to 1600 CE. According to Edwin Smith Egyptians recognised the heart, its vessels, the liver, spleen, kidneys, hypothalamus, uterus and bladder more than 3600 years ago. Then over the years, Greeks, Romans and Muslims expanded the knowledge of anatomy and the physiological functions of the organs. Millions of cadavers have been examined and insofar as modern anatomy books were concerned the organs in the human body were thought to number 78.
Among the anatomists, Frederick Treves is known as the expert of the guts. He examined hundreds of cadavers and performed the first appendectomy, in England, on 29 June 1888. He was the doctor who performed an operation on the appendix of King Edward VII two days before his coronation. Gastro-intestinal medicine was receptive to his findings and 2008 textbooks, including Gray’s anatomy, have published his descriptions. But it seems that he missed an organ in his investigations and his mistake has persisted for more than a century. Gray’s anatomy has updated its 41st edition with the new information regarding the newly discovered organ.
The existence of this new organ called ‘mesentery’ has been known for more than 100 years and can be recognised in Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings. But until now it was considered as disjointed fragments which are dispersed among the intestine. “The anatomic description that had been laid down over 100 years of anatomy was incorrect. This organ is far from fragmented and complex,” said J. Calvin Coffey, a study author and surgeon at the University of Limerick, Ireland, in a statement. “It is simply one continuous structure.” Mesentery as a single entity is classified as the 79th human body organ. “We are now saying we have an organ in the body which hasn’t been acknowledged as such to date,” Coffey said.
Mesentery is a double fold of peritoneum, a fatty membrane which holds the intestine in place. Simply it prevents things from sliding out of place in potentially painful and dangerous ways. In a series of studies in 2012 and 2014 Coffey and his colleagues confirmed the mesentery was continuous stretching from the rectum to the small intestine at the base of the stomach. Coffey went as far as to argue life without the mesentery is impossible — “without it you can’t live,” he told Discover Magazine.
Without mesentery the intestine will slop around in the belly. “When the mesentery does not attach to the abdominal wall in the manner in which it usually does, then it can twist on its blood supply,” Coffey told The Huffington Post. “This causes the blood supply to stop, and the intestine undergoes necrosis or dies. This is incompatible with life.”
In the paper published in November 2016 in The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Coffey argues that “mesenteric science” should be its own specialised field of medical study. “We need to reinterpret many diseases with a new anatomic model in mind,” Coffey said. “When you understand the normal appearing mesentery then you are better positioned to identify abnormalities and the abnormalities that we see in disease.” Typically, anatomists classify organs not only by their continuity but also by a common function. The complete function of the mesentery remains a mystery.
According to Coffey, it is almost certain that mesentery has important roles in some gut diseases, so understanding the organ and its functions can lead to less surgical complications and offers new targets in the fight against abdominal diseases like Crohn’s disease. “Now we have established anatomy and the structure. The next step is the function. 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,” said Coffey. It just goes to show that no matter how advanced science becomes, there’s always more to learn and discover, even within our own bodies.

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