If you’ve overindulged during the festive period and you’re digestive system feels a bit worse for wear, then be encouraged by the fact that Irish researchers have discovered an entirely new digestive organ called the mesentery, opening up an entirely new field of medical science.
The mesentery, as described by researchers at the University of Limerick, was once thought to be a ‘fragmented structure made up of multiple separate parts’ but they have now concluded that it is actually a single, previously unrecognised organ. The research has now been published in the journal ‘Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology’.
“During the initial research, we noticed in particular that the mesentery, which connects the gut to the body, was one continuous organ,” commented J. Calvin Coffey, a surgeon at the University of Limerick who conducted the research. “Up to then it was regarded as fragmented, present here, absent elsewhere and a very complex structure. The anatomic description that had been laid down over 100 years of anatomy was incorrect. This organ is far from fragmented and complex. It is simply one continuous structure.”
So what does the mesentery actually do? The jury is still out, but even though it has only now been identified as an organ, scientists have been aware of its existence for centuries, with even Leonardo da Vinci drawing it. In short, the mesentery is a double fold of peritoneum (the lining of the abdominal cavity) that attaches our intestine to the wall of our abdomen, thus keeping everything locked into place. Other than this, it was seen to be a pretty unimportant and unremarkable part of our anatomy.
The Limerick researchers first discovered that the mesentery was actually a continuous structure in 2012, when they undertook detailed microscopic examinations. Over the past 4 years, they have gathered further evidence that the mesentery should actually be classified as its own distinct organ.
The Limerick team’s research has even pushed ‘Gray’s Anatomy’, the world famous medical textbook, to add an update reflecting the mesentery’s new status as a unique organ, according to the university. Medical students are also now being taught that the mesentery is a distinct organ.
It is now hoped that the reclassification of the mesentery will lead to pioneering research that could help open up an entirely new area of medical science and improve disease outcomes with regards to abdominal and digestive diseases.
“Now we have established anatomy and the structure. The next step is the function. If you understand the function you can identify abnormal function, and then you have disease. Put them all together and you have the field of mesenteric science … the basis for a whole new area of science,” said Coffey.
So there you go, the mesentery has been hiding within us all this time. Expect further details in the coming months/years as scientists now work to unlock all of its secrets that could potentially help thousands of patients suffering from crippling digestive disorders.
Cordis Source: Based on media reports