It might seem that science should have discovered all the basic workings of the human body by now. But no- not even close. In fact, scientists have just discovered that we all have an until-now-unknown organ that has apparently been lurking quietly among the 78 organs that make up the human body
The newly discovered organ is called “mesentery.” It’s in our guts, and is a folded belt of tissue that holds our intestines neatly in place. It begins at the pancreas and continues down through the small intestine and colon, protecting and securing these vital organs .
We already knew it was there – Leonardo da Vinci even described it in a sketch – but was generally regarded as a series of separate bits that’s only function was to attach the intestines to the abdominal wall. But now, after four years of research at the University of Limerick, we know that mesentery is a whole continuous organ.
“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,” said J Calvin Coffey, a professor of surgery at the University of Limerick.
“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.”
Coffey’s remarkable discovery means that medical text books -including the famed medical textbook “Gray’s Anatomy” – need to be updated.
So what does the mesentery do? We don’t know, nor are we clear on whether it is part of the intestinal, vascular, endocrine, cardiovascular, or immunological systems. Apparently, the mesentery has important roles in all of these body systems, so classifying it is difficult. What we do know for sure is that without a functioning mesentery, you’d die.
Scientists think that studying the mesentery might lead to new breakthroughs in treating abdominal and digestive diseases such as Crohn’s and irritable bowel syndrome. There is a suspicion that the mesentery may even regulate the migration of white blood cells throughout the intestines.
Professor Coffey believes that an entire new field of science – like gastroenterology and neurology – is necessary to fully explore the mesentery.
“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,” Coffey said.
The mesentery is tightly integrated with the intestine, Coffey added, and is located in an area of the human body that has not been fully explored. Apparently, we are still a mystery to ourselves.