Scientists say they've discovered a new human organ

Cheryl Sanders
March 30, 2018

Previously, the human body is known to have a lot of fluids - nearly half found within the cells and another seventh of it inside the heart, blood vessels, lymph nodes, and lymph vessels.

While the fluid-carrying channels have not been officially designated an organ by a majority of scientists, Neil Theise of New York University's School of Medicine says the interstitium holds almost a fifth of the body's fluids.

Called the interstitium, it is found all over the body just beneath the top layer of skin and lines the digestive tract, arteries, and lungs.

The study said the interstitium can compress or expand in size, suggesting it could serve as "shock absorbers" for other parts of the body. This discovery is a network of fluid-filled spaces in tissue that have not been seen before.

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The research team was originally studying the spread of cancer in the bile duct of several patients, but in doing so the team noticed a connective web of cavities.

They took their findings to Neil Theise, a professor in the Department of Pathology at NYU Langone Health, who used a similar device to look under the skin of his own nose and found a similar structure. For them to grow in a new organ, it must be in a fertile or in a favorable condition. Last year, an Irish surgeon discovered the mesentery, which connects the intestine to the abdomen. It is made up of interconnected, fluid-filled compartments, and is supported by strong, flexible proteins.

Researchers were able to view living tissues instead of fixed ones by using a newer technology called probe-based confocal laser encomicroscopy.

The spaces had been missed in previous studies because of the way scientists prepared samples for microscopic slides. That's important because fluid in this network is the largest source of lymph, which is a critical part of the immune system.

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"The direct sampling of interstitial fluid may become a powerful diagnostic tool", Theise added in an NYU news release. "Can we figure out mechanisms to stop spread?" he ponders about the discovery.

They suspect the fluid-filled spaces may act like shock absorbers that prevent the tearing of tissue in organs, muscles and vessels as they move during normal functioning.

Our bodies are full of dozens of organs, all performing unique and specialized tasks. It's even possible that studying these spaces could help reveal what acupuncture is or isn't doing within the body.

This story originally appeared in Business Insider.

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