Improved technology has paved the way for a whole new level of understanding with better imaging. Over the last year, researchers have announced the discovery of two "new" organs in the human body! With new discoveries come new understanding about our bodies and how they work, which may also lead to breakthroughs in disease treatment and prevention.
Up until recently, doctors saw the mesentery as little more than a few separate patches of tissue that held the gut in place. Better imaging has revealed, however, that the mesentery is a single, interconnected structure. This closer look was enough to reclassify the tissue as an organ, sending researchers to consider what else they may have overlooked and what other jobs this organ may have.
If the mesentery is in fact an organ, then it is likely to have functions that go beyond gut structural integrity. Researchers are currently investigating its possible role in bowel disorders like colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and diverticulitis. The mesentery may even play a part in the development of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome.
The interstitium is a layer of connective tissue that lines the skin, muscles, and some vital organs. It's been known about for centuries and acts as a buffer against strains that come with movement, allowing you to twist and stretch without damaging your organs and muscles. A chance discovery during a routine endoscopy led to re-examination of that connective tissue and it was found that it was actually a systemic structure serving multiple functions—and this led to the interstitium being reclassified as an organ.
Researchers believe the interstitium may play a role in the progression of certain inflammatory diseases, and even how the body ages. It might also, unfortunately, act as a highway for cancer cells to enter the lymph system to spread to other areas of the body.
Better imaging, combined with keener looks at longstanding approaches, have led to new ways of defining old systems in the human body. With greater understanding of how these overlooked organs function, researchers might discover novel new approaches to illness, aging, and possibly even cancer prevention and treatment.