Scientists in Ireland have classified a brand-new organ inside the human body, one that has been hiding in plain sight in our digestive system, proving the anatomic description laid down over 100 years of anatomy as incorrect.
Researchers hope that the reclassification will aid better understanding and treatment of abdominal and digestive diseases.
The mesentery, which connects the intestine to the abdomen, had for hundreds of years been considered a fragmented structure made up of multiple separate parts.
However, new research by J Calvin Coffey, Professor of Surgery at the University of Limerick in Ireland, describes the mesentery as one, continuous structure.
In a review published in the journal The Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Coffey outlined the evidence for categorising the mesentery as an organ.
“In the paper, which has been peer reviewed and assessed, we are now saying we have an organ in the body which has not been acknowledged as such to date,” Coffey said.
Better understanding and further scientific study of the mesentery could lead to less invasive surgeries, fewer complications, faster patient recovery and lower overall costs.
“When we approach it like every other organ, we can categorise abdominal disease in terms of this organ,” Coffey said.
According to Coffey, mesenteric science is its own specific field of medical study in the same way as gastroenterology, neurology and coloproctology.
“This is relevant universally as it affects all of us. Up to now, there was no such field as mesenteric science. 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 the disease. Put them all together and you have the field of mesenteric science. The basis for a whole new area of science,” he said.
“During the initial research, we noticed in particular that the mesentery, which connects the gut to the body, was one continuous organ. Up to that, 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,” Coffey said.