Newly discovered organ could be largest in body

Avatar By Joseph Scalise | 3 years ago

Researchers from the New York Department of Pathology have discovered what they believe to be a never-before-seen human organ, according to new research published in the journal Scientific Reports.

In the study, the team outlined their idea that the body contains a previously undiscovered network of fluid-filled pockets and collagen that sit beneath the skin and cover most internal organs.

Researchers accidentally discovered the proposed organ — known as the interstitium — while conducting a series of standard endoscopies. Though past endoscopies relied on cameras, newer techniques employ lasers that enable scientists to look into tissue at a microscopic level.

When the team behind the research studied a patient’s’ bile ducts, they expected to find the dense connective tissue that covers most organs. However, instead they found a mesh-like pattern of dark branching collagen bands around large, fluid-filled spaces.

After confirming their finding in other parts of the body, the team theorized that scientists had never found the interstitium because tissue samples caused the pockets to collapse and appear like solid tissue. After extracting bile samples, the scientists froze and studied them underneath a microscope. As expected, they found fluid pockets surrounded by bundles of collagen.

“This fixation artifact of collapse has made a fluid-filled tissue type throughout the body appear solid in biopsy slides for decades, and our results correct for this to expand the anatomy of most tissues,” said study co-author Neil Theise, a professor at New York University’s Department of Pathology, in a statement. “This finding has potential to drive dramatic advances in medicine, including the possibility that the direct sampling of interstitial fluid may become a powerful diagnostic tool.”

Researchers estimate that the interstitium contains up to a fifth of the body’s total fluids, and they believe the fluid is lymph — a colorless substance produced by the lymph nodes. Scientists are not sure why the interstitium exists, but they believe it could help absorb shock or act as an inner-body highway for white blood cells.

The team believes the system could foster disorders or certain diseases as well. For example, in some patients with cancer they found evidence the dangerous cells moved out of their initial site by hitching a ride along the interstitium.

The team needs to conduct more research to confirm their findings, but if they turn out to be true it would make the interstitium the first “new” organ discovered this year. It would also be the body’s 80th discovered organ, Gizmodo reports.