Discovery of a new organ?
A vast network of fluid-filled channels that surrounds muscle and lines the digestive, respiratory, and urinary tracts may be a previously undetected human organ, known as the interstitium, say scientists at New York University Langone School of Medicine. The researchers believe that this newly found structure, which appears to be an “open, fluid-filled highway,” serves as an internal shock absorber for other organs and also plays a major role in the immune system. Interstitial fluid is the source of lymph, which dispatches white blood cells to fight infections. The interstitium could help explain how cancer cells spread throughout the body. “Once they get in, it’s like they’re on a water slide,” the study’s co-author, Neil Theise, tells NewScientist.com. “We have a new window on the mechanism of tumor spread.” The interstitium holds about 20 percent of all the fluid in the human body, but it has evaded detection until now since tissue samples are typically dehydrated before being examined under a microscope. More research is needed to understand its role and determine whether it is indeed a distinct organ. Either way, Theise says, this discovery may lead to “a significant reassessment of anatomy affecting every organ of the body.”