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New Organ Discovered?

So, I thought that we knew the inner workings of the human body pretty well, but it turns out we only thought we did. A press release came out on the 27th of March stating that a new organ may have been discovered!

It has been called the interstitium, and it’s found just below the top layer of our skin, and in the tissue layers lining our guts, lungs, blood vessels, and muscles – so it’s basically everywhere. Researchers say that it may play an important role not only in the functions of our organs and most tissues, but also in the mechanisms of most major diseases.

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A: Asterisks denote collagen bundles. B: An arrow points to a cell. C: Darker blue shows collagen bundles, and light blue reveals what may be elastin. D: Elastin fibres shown in black run along collagen bundles shown in pink.  (National Geographic Photo)

The researchers that have discovered this new anatomical feature are from the New York School of Medicine. They say that the interstitium is a layer of fluid-filled compartments connected by collagen and elastin. This layer was previously thought to be just dense connective tissue, and this is because of the way that tissues were studied by scientists.

When scientists want to look at a tissue, they used to do it solely with microscopes, and to do that you need to have microscope slides. To make slides, samples are sliced extremely thin, and “fixed” (or treated) with chemicals so key features can be identified. Identifying key components of tissues is important, but unfortunately, this process washes away fluid. Without the fluid in these samples, the compartments collapse, making the structures look dense and packed together.

Theise says that these compartments may act as shock absorbers as they are compressible and distensible. He also theorizes that it is the source of lymph – the fluid that flows through the lymphatic symptom and aids with immunity. He states that it is important to understand how this fluid travels through the body as it could give us insight into how cancer spreads rapidly through seemingly unrelated organs.

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The interstitium is seen here beneath the top layer of skin. (CNN photo)

Some scientists have expressed their skepticism around this newly published paper, and stress that before we start forming opinions and conclusions more research needs to be done. However, this study does demonstrate the incredible power of in vivo microscopy to generate new insights into the physiology of normal and diseased tissues.

 

You can read the original press release here: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-03/nlh-nh032318.php and the scientific paper here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-23062-6

 

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