Recently, the news has been jam packed with headlines about the ‘mesentery’ – essentially the discovery of a new organ, which was hiding in plain sight. What was previously thought to be a few fragmented structures in the digestive system, has been discovered to be one continuous organ. The double fold of the lining of the abdominal cavity, holding the intestine to the wall of the abdomen. I thought I’d do a bit of research, as what really interested me is what function can the mesentery have? As scientists we have thought we understood the human body, and the roles of each of its organs, however the discovery of a new organ comes with new questions. What does it do? What is its impact on the functions of other organs?
The mesentery has been rigorously investigated by professor J Calvin Coffey since 2012, where electron microscope examinations were used to analyse the structure. This led to the discovery of one continuous organ, and not just tissue fragments in the digestive system. Understanding the function of this organ is essential in the field of medicine, when the functionis understood, abnormal function can be understood and the differences observed and investigated. Enabling scientists to consequently find the diseases related to that organ, and how to treat them.
The mesentery can be seen as a folded flap around the intestines, from the base of the stomach and pancreas, closing the small intestine and colon, to the rectum. While what appears to be its most obvious purpose is to maintain the positioning of our intestines, there have been suggestions of other roles of the organs. One of which, from J Calvin Coffey and D Peter O’Leary (University of Limerick) is that is may be responsible for the movementof white blood cells around the intestines.
The classification of the mesentery as an organ does not change the structure which has been inside our bodies for millions of years, however it does present a new field of medical science and the possibility of improving health outcomes, such as those for abdominal and digestive diseases. For instance, when the tissue of the mesentery becomes inflamed, it can disturb the intestines, causing stomach pains and discomfort. Why is not yet known, as the function of this new organ is not yet understood. The anatomy and structure of the mesentery has been established and scientists are now working towards establishing the function of mesentery and thus what role in could play in disease, alongside the possibility of new and revolutionary treatments.
This was a discovery I found truly shocking, as it is one which causes us to question what it is we already know about the human body, and the possibilities of the vast amounts we do not know. However, science is an ever advancing field, and as our investigative techniques improve and advance, I am hopeful that we will continue to discover more about the human body and how it works, enabling us to to improve treatment methods.