New year, new organ


Chase Ballas

Researchers have found that there is a 79th organ in the human body, leading to new pathways of disease and anatomical research for years to come. The mesentery, which connects the intestines to the abdominal wall, has always been a known structure, but was overlooked as being merely fragmented support structures that hold the intestines in place. Conflicting research on the mesentery dates back to the time of Leonardo Da Vinci, who originally drew it as one continuous body. But now, research led by Dr. J. Calvin Coffey of the University of Limerick in Ireland published in The Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology last November has argued that the mesentery is in fact one, continuous structure that satisfies the requirements needed for it to be classified as its own organ.

As of right now, the mesentery exchanges fluids, including blood and lymphatic fluid (which contains white blood cells) between the intestines and the body. This prevents the intestine from being directly connected to the body, and from collapsing into the pelvis when walking or standing up. The mesentery also has unknown roles in the digestive, cardiovascular, endocrine, and immunological systems. The mesentery also signals environmental responses from the intestine, and has the body act accordingly.

Most importantly, this new research will have immediate impact on disease and surgical procedures in the medical field. With further research into the function and anatomy of the mesentery, developments can be made for less invasive surgeries, fewer complications with diagnosis and medication, faster patient recovery, and lower treatment costs. According to Dr. Coffey, “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.”

While Dr. Coffey’s paper is still being peer-reviewed, the general consensus is that the mesentery should be treated as a distinct organ. The research has already prompted edits and changes to the world renowned Gray’s Anatomy textbook in its 41st edition, which is widely used in medical schools.