Have Scientists Found A New Organ?

Image source: Daily Mail

Scientists have found a new organ between our other existing organs and under our skin. But what is it exactly and will it help us treat disease?

The scientific journal Scientific Reports has published a new study in which scientists from the New York University’s School of Medicine claim to have discovered a new organ that they have decided to call the “interstitium”.

This scientific discovery could be key in future treatments of diseases.

Where Is The “Interstitium”?

Perhaps the most shocking thing about this discovery is that this new “organ” seems to be everywhere so why researchers did not find it much sooner will remain a mystery. They say that they never saw it before because of the way in which tissue is normally studied.

When we say that the “interstitium” is everywhere it is because it is just below the surface of the skin, but it is also between muscles in the fibrous tissue, they surround veins and arteries, they are in our urinary systems, lungs, and line our digestive tracts.

One could say that this “organ” was hidden in plain sight.

Image source: Amazon

How Did Researchers See this “Organ”?

The way these researchers from the New York University’s School of Medicine found the interstitium was by changing the way that tissue is normally studied.

The brain is the most complicated organ in the universe. We have learned a lot about other human organs, We know how the heart pumps and how the kidney does what it does. To a certain degree, we have read the letters of the human genome. But the brain has 100 billion neurons. Each one of those has about 10,000 connections. – Francis Collins.

What scientists usually do is to slice the samples as thinly as possible and treat them with chemicals, before placing them under the microscope. This allowed them to identify all the key components with a greater level of ease.

The only problem with this method is that it drains all fluid from the samples. And draining all fluid also flattens the samples.

So, this time, instead of looking at dead tissue samples, scientists looked at tissue. In that way, they could see pockets of interstitial fluid before it got completely drained.

The technique they use to examine the interstitial fluid is called “confocal laser endomicroscopy”. This probing technique uses an extremely small camera probe. This camera probe can look around the human body microscopically. The endoscope’s lasers then lit the tissue and then the sensors analyze all the fluorescent patterns that the lasers reflect.

When Did Researchers Find the “Interstitium”?

The first time that scientists noticed any of this was by sheer accident. In fact, they were just examining a bile duct at the time.

Image source: NYU Langone

It was then that they noticed what they at the time believed to be “tears” in the tissue. Professor Neil Theise, from the New York University’s School of Medicine, was the one who took those initial images.

According to Dr. Theise, about two-thirds of the water our bodies are made of is found in our cells. But the other third is not fully known by scientists.

This new technique for studying tissue will not only be more effective, but it might also help scientists understand some of the body’s essential functions.

Dr. Theise has some theories about the possible functions of the interstitium. He thinks, for example, that this new “organ” could be a source of lymph. The lymph is a fluid that moves all through the lymphatic system of the body in order to support immunity.

Now that we know that diseases are spread through the lymphatic system may be key in understanding how cancer spreads.

However, this is all extremely preliminary and more research needs to be carried out now. A biomedical engineer at Virginia Tech Jennifer Munson, who was not part of this study, would like to see more research before daring to call the interstitium a new “organ”.

She calls for a “little skepticism” before we can make any claims of a new organ being found.

The Study

The full title of the study, published on March 27, 2018, is “Structure and Distribution of an Unrecognized Interstitium in Human Tissues”.

The authors of the paper are:

Petros C. Benias from the Department of Medicine, Division of Digestive Diseases, Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York.

Rebecca G. Wells from the Department of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. And the Department of Bioengineering and Center for Engineering of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Bridget Sackey-Aboagye from the Department of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadephia.

Heather Klavan from the Department of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Jason Reidy from the Department of Pathology, Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York.

Darren Buoncore from the Department of Pathology, Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York.

Markus Miranda from the Department of Medicine, Division of Digestive Diseases, Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York.

Susan Kornacki from the Department of Medicine, Division of Digestive Diseases, Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York.

Michael Wayne from the Department of Surgery, Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York.

David L. Carr-Locke from the Department of Medicine, Division of Digestive Diseases, Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York.

Neil D. Theise from the Department of Medicine, Division of Digestive Diseases, Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York.

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