Science has progressed by leaps and bounds, but there’s always something new to discover. Toward the end of last year, scientists announced the discovery of a new human organ, previously thought to be a set of separate structures.
Writing in The Lancet: Gastroenterology & Hepatology, two Irish scientists announced the official classification of the mesentery (meaning “in the middle of the intestines”).
“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,” J. Calvin Coffey, professor of surgery at the University of Limerick’s Graduate Entry Medical School, said in a statement. Better understanding and further study of the mesentery could lead to fewer invasive surgeries, fewer complications, faster patient recovery, and lower overall costs.
“When we approach it like every other organ…we can categorize abdominal disease in terms of this organ,” Coffey explained. Approaching this organ as a separate organ also entails launching a new specific field of medical study, like gastroenterology, neurology, and coloproctology.
“Up to now there was no such field as mesenteric science,” Coffey said. “Now we have established anatomy and the structure. The next step is 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.”
GUYS SOME SCIENCE JUST FOUND OUT THERE'S A BRAND NEW HUMAN ORGAN WE ONLY JUST FOUND ITS CALLED A MESENTERY AND ITS BEEN HIDING INSIDE YOU pic.twitter.com/0rAlBn0fNj
— ✨pepsi queen✨ (@Sorenova) January 4, 2017
Leonardo da Vinci gave one of the first descriptions of the mesentery, but until around 2012 it was considered to be a series of separate structures keeping the intestines attached to the abdominal wall, like a series of support girders, as opposed to its own separate organ.
The team from the University of Limerick, however, used complex microscopy work to confirm that the structures are all interconnected and appear to be part of one organ. Much of the research was conducted on patients undergoing an operation to remove most or all of their colon.
Taught to medical students since 2012 as a new organ, the mesentery has now been added to the Gray’s Anatomy textbook and described in the new paper.
While scientists have now classified the mesentery, medical experts do not fully understand what it actually does. Blood vessels, nerves, and lymphatic tubes go via the mesentery to the intestines, so it does have a function, but much more research needs to be done to actually discover its full function.