A breakthrough in the discovery of a new human organ could significantly aid the treatment of cancer and other diseases.
This new organ, called interstitium, is a series of fluid-filled compartments joined together by a web-like structure made of strong and thick collagen called the elastin.
Real-time imaging technique enabled scientists to discover this new organ, which previously was undetected due to the conventional method of gathering samples out of dead tissue in a microscope slide which requires to be chemically treated, in turn draining away fluid. With the liquids sucked out of its compartment, the whole structure becomes invisible as it turns flat. Using in vivo examination, which refers to drawing samples from living tissues through endomicroscopy, specialists were able to discover cavities previously unknown to human anatomy while looking at a patient’s bile duct during a pancreato-billary surgical procedure.
“What we saw is this layer of the bile duct is this open fluid filled space supported by this collagen bundle latticework,” Dr. Neil Theise, a pathologist from New York University who conducted the study along with Doctors David Carr-Locke and Petros Benias of Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center, explains the significance of the discovery while looking for signs of cancer in the bile duct.
Scientists found that interstitium serves as ‘shock-absorbers’ and can be found not only in the bile duct where scientists first encountered the organ, but also under the skin surrounding the lungs, gallbladder, urinary and gastrointestinal tracts, and surrounds most muscles and arteries. It helps protects organs subject to compression and distension whether constant, such as the heart and lungs, or intermittent, an example being the digestive tract after consuming food. It is thought to be one of the largest organs of the human body.
According to Theise, “It looks exactly like what shock absorbers are, there are these structures that flexibly contain fluid and can compress and then fill back up again.”
Interstitial fluid, which is rich in protein and used for the production of lymph, drains into the lymphatic system which is responsible for the body’s immunity against bacteria and viruses. However, evidence also shows that cancer cells can make their way into the lymphatic system through the interstitium. This pattern could prove to be a breakthrough in cancer research and treatments.
Theise has an optimistic outlook for the study’s findings. “This finding has potential to drive dramatic advances in medicine, including the possibility that the direct sampling of interstitial fluid may become a powerful diagnostic tool,” the pathologist said.
“These anatomic structures may be important in cancer metastasis, edema, fibrosis, and mechanical functioning of many or all tissues and organs.” He added that these understanding this network of interwoven web of fluids can pave the way for scientists to learn more and find ways of fighting against certain diseases.
The discovery of interstitium may be just one of the most significant findings in the field of medicine. With its ever-changing and limitless possibilities, modern science continues to transform the face of healthcare and its accessibility. Equipping yourself with health and income protection insurance assures that you get the professional care you and your family deserve.
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