A brand new organ has been found in the human body, various news sites reported this week. We can explore the farthest reaches of outer space, the genomes of extinct species and the depths of the oceans, yet were completely unaware of a major organ, not a small one either, lurking in our innards?
Not exactly. The so-called brand new organ, or "extra organ," the mesentery, is not new – it evolved in our bodies together with our lights and livers. Nor did it slyly hide from oblivious scientists.
All that happened this week was that two doctors wrote a paper in the esteemed medical journal Lancet, describing the structure of the mesentery in depth, and speculating as to its function and possible role in illness. There, they explained why in their opinion a bunch of connective tissues that look like chanterelle mushrooms and that we already knew about, should be reclassified as a single organ.
"Distinctive anatomical and functional features have been revealed that justify designation of the mesentery as an organ," explains the University Hospital Limerick team, headed by lead author J. Calvin Coffey.
Therefore, they argue, "the mesentery should be subjected to the same investigatory focus that is applied to other organs and systems." That's it.
Evidently persuaded, the editors of Gray's Anatomy, which is a reference book, not just a television series, have updated the entry on mesentery to reflect this thinking.
There is what to investigate. Science admits that it doesn't know what this mesentery does aside from attach our intestines to our abdominal walls. We know that lymph and blood vessels and nerves pass through it to the intestines, that its root attaches to the rear of the abdominal cavity and that the whole thing is enormous. The intestinal border of the mesentery averages about six and a half meters in length. We also know that in the obese, the mesentery also accrues a buildup of fat. Now it has been redefined as your 79th organ.
Potentially, once somebody figures out more specifically what the mesentery does, it can be linked with diseases and/or conditions. Or not.
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