I remember toting around the hefty Gray’s Anatomy book for years, like a preacher carries a bible. Anyone who has ever taken anatomy classes, or been in pre-med or medical programs, has lugged the ‘anatomical bible’ as well. Admittedly, this probably only rings true for the “olden days” as I assume Gray’s is now typically a downloaded reference book hiding within a student’s laptop or Kindle.
Gray’s would be the ultimate resource in a Trivial-Pursuit game question of how many organs there are in the body. Most everyone could probably name the 5 “vital organs” [Test yourself.]
Correct. Heart, brain, lungs, liver and kidneys. However, that wouldn’t actually be a point-winning answer. I’ll reveal that in a moment. Now, to the real question of whether it is an April Fool’s joke to say you have a new organ. Taken together, with hundreds of years of autopsies, physical exams and surgeries, hasn’t every organ been identified? And with the thousands of hours of TV hospital shows in which viewers learn every conceivable strange condition or new treatment approach, could a new organ be likely?
Up until now, the Trivial Pursuit answer to how many organs are in the body was 78. (Indeed, a surprise.) Still, it may be a bigger surprise that the new answer is 79, meaning this isn’t an April Fools Hoax.
Before I explain this new organ, which many describe as “hiding in plain sight,” let me share that those scientists credited with the discovery may not have been the first in reality. While the discovery is ‘official’ only this year (2017), there may have been a predecessor by a few years. Well, maybe more than a few. In 1508, the venerable Leonardo da Vinci described the structure among his anatomical drawings. Accommodatingly, researchers from the University Hospital Limerick have confirmed da Vinci’s portrayal. They transformed the view of a splintered organ which had been accepted for more than 100 years.
This ‘newly discovered,’ and substantially sized, organ doesn’t exactly have a brand new name. The “Mesentery” (soon to be the centerpiece in the field of mesenteric science) had been designated previously as part of the digestive system. The mesentery organ is described as folds of peritoneum (which you can think of as a lining for the abdomen). It attaches the organs of the cavity (such as stomach, pancreas, spleen, small intestine) to the abdomen, keeping everything kind of locked in place. And what if that locking mechanism alone is dysfunctional, would that lead to disease, pain or poor function? Some of those answers are unclear.
The organ, previously believed to be a collection of related but fragmented pieces, is now (thanks to complex microscopy) known to be a continuous and complex configuration. The structure as one-piece is now clear with the research published in the Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology journal. The clarification of its full function however, is yet to be determined.
“This is relevant universally as it affects all of us…
Now we have established anatomy and the structure….
The next step is function…
If you understand the function you can identify abnormal function,
and then you have disease.”
–Professor J. Calvin Coffey
Discoverer /Researcher University Hospital Limerick, Ireland
Professor Coffey is not hoping for disease. Physicians and researchers assume that when they are able to better identify related disease, then treatment of such abdominal and digestive conditions is not far behind. Mesenteric science could improve many of our health outcomes. Conceivably, this is a hope for those who have had misunderstood conditions or had difficult-to-diagnosis abdominal disorders.
So no, this is not an April Fool’s joke. With the addition of the Mesentery, the new trivia answer is indeed 79 organs in the body. That gives me a warm, squishy, fuller feeling.
Pictures of structure: click here to see a Google collection of multiple mesentery images.
The published article with explanation and evidence for the reclassification of the organ can be read in the Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology journal.
Title Picture credit: courtesy of Pixaby.com