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Scientists Discover New ‘Hidden’ Human Organ, the Mesentery

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If you passed high school anatomy, you’ll be familiar with the brain, heart, lungs, pancreas, liver, and other bodily organs. But two medical school professors in Ireland have recently added a bonus question to that final exam—a brand-new organ that’s apparently been hiding in our stomachs for centuries.

If you were hoping for a sexy, memorable name for the organ, you’re out of luck. It’s called the mesentery (pronounced “Mez-ehn-tary”), and it serves as a conduit between the intestines and abdomen (see it in yellow in the graphic below). The findings were made public in November in the medical journal The Lancet: Gastroenterology and Hepatology by professors J. Calvin Coffey and D. Peter O’Leary from the University of Limerick.

The New Bodily Organ the Mesentery
(J. Calvin Coffey/D. Peter O’Leary, ‘The Mesentery: Structure, Function, and Role in Disease’)

 

Per the professors’ research, the study of the mesentery actually dates back to the days of Leonardo da Vinci, who initially associated it with the small bowel and colon region. It was then studied over the next 400 years in various forms, with findings from a 19th-century medical scientist viewed as definitive until late last year. The original findings “… [resulted in a] depiction in most anatomical, embryological, surgical, and radiological literature … [of] a fragmented mesentery, present only at the small intestine, transverse colon, and sigmoid colon,” notes the study. In short, the mesentery was never identified as its own complete organ.

Doing so, however, appears to have been the easy part. As the professors note in their study, “Whether the mesentery should be viewed as part of the intestinal, vascular, endocrine, cardiovascular, or immunological systems is so far unclear, as it has important roles in them all.” It’s also unclear how the mesentery actually functions—which is basically what makes an organ an organ. So a lot of work has yet to be done on the topic.

To read the full study, click here.

RealClearLife Staff