Scientists have officially identified a new organ in the human body, which they are calling mesentery. Located in the digestive system, the organ’s structure has only recently been uncovered. Although its function still remains a mystery, researchers believe that studying it could enhance understanding of digestive and abdominal diseases and their treatments. Speaking about the find, recently published in The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology journal, J. Calvin Coffey of Ireland’s University of Limerick said:
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. The anatomic description that had been laid down over 100 years of anatomy was incorrect. This organ is far from fragmented and complex. It is simply one continuous structure.
Credited with this amazing discovery, Coffey revealed that the new study disproves the long-held belief that our digestive system possesses a number of different fragmented structures, instead showing that it is in fact a long, continuous organ. Thanks to the research, updated versions of medical textbooks, like Gray’s Anatomy, now contain a separate definition of the new organ.
In case you are wondering, mesentery is basically a double-layered peritoneum, the membrane lining of the abdominal cavity. According to the scientists, the newly-found organ is responsible for connecting the intestine to the abdominal walls, holding everything in place. Looking back, the earliest reference to this organ was made by Renaissance artist and innovator Leonardo da Vinci. Nevertheless, it was largely ignored as insignificant until recently.
Over the last 100 years or so, researchers regarded mesentery as a fragmented structure belonging to separate parts of the body, making it relatively non-essential. The current research is based on a 2012 study, in which Coffey and his team at the University of Limerick showed that it is in fact a single, continuous structure. Further examination has revealed that mesentery is actually a complete organ. Coffey added:
When we approach it like every other organ… we can categorize abdominal disease in terms of this organ.
The researchers believe that studying the new organ and uncovering its functions could in turn pave the way for better and more efficient treatments for various abdominal and digestive diseases. The team went on to say:
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. This is relevant universally as it affects all of us.
Source: University of Limerick