This organ scientists just found might be the way cancer spreads through the body
Scientists have recently discovered a potential new organ in the human body that could help explain how cancer spreads throughout the body.
Unlike the typical solid organ such as the heart or lungs, the interstitium is a system of tissue that surrounds almost every major organ in the body, similar to the way skin protects the outside of the body.
Originally, researchers thought the interstitium was just a layer of connective tissue that had very few cells and was made up of various fibers, such as cartilage, that formed a support system for organs, muscles and bones. But when they closely examined the interstitium, researchers found functioning proteins and fluid-filled sacs in between the spread-out cells.
But if scientists were already aware of the system of tissues, why is it only now being considered an organ? Biology professor Dr. Robert West said it's because of new imaging technology.
“When looking at the tissue with the new imaging procedures, researchers began to see patterns that didn’t make sense,” West said. “In the past, with the way we have examined people and dissected cadavers, we just never saw it as we are now—and that’s why they’re saying a potentially new organ.”
According to researchers, officially identifying the interstitium as an organ could direct more research towards it. The scientists currently studying the new organ said they believe it could even help clarify some mechanisms in the human body that are still not fully understood.
However, more research is needed to better understand the true function of the interstitium and how it affects other parts of the body.
Sophomore nursing major Maggie Holman said she is intrigued by the discussion arising from the discovery and what it could mean for future learning.
“That’s one of the great things about science. We thought we knew about everything in the human body, but God is creative and likes to surprise us,” Holman said. “If we’re still finding things now in 2018, I wonder what all we’ll figure out 20 years from now.”
Dr. Michael Nathanson, professor of medicine and cell biology and chief of the section of digestive diseases at Yale University, said he believes the study suggests the interstitium plays a role in helping cancer spread throughout the body.
“In my opinion, this has the potential to change our understanding of the human body because this region may undergo changes in certain disease states such as cancer,” Nathanson said, according to Eagleee News. “This now puts us in a position to figure out whether this is an effect or else perhaps part of the cause of such diseases.”
For more information about the ‘new organ,’ visit https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/03/interstitium-fluid-cells-organ-found-cancer-spd/.