Most of us have misplaced our keys or found an item we thought we’d lost forever buried in our closets. But this month, researchers published a new organ study, highlighting something most of us didn’t know we ever had — a new body part.
Though doctors have long known about the mesentery, a membrane that connects the intestine to the abdomen, it was previously thought to be made of several different tissue parts. But a professor out of Limerick, Ireland, has determined that these fragmented structures are actually an organ, bringing the grand total of organs to 79.
What Did the New Organ Study Find?
Leonardo DiVinci described the mesentery as continuous way back in 1508. Over the centuries, other medical illustrators and physicians followed suit. But in the 1880s, the prevalent theory suggesting that the mesentery couldn’t be one structure emerged.
That theory prevailed until the work of J. Calvin Coffey. He’s been researching the mesentery for several years and in his new organ study, “The mesentery: structure, function, and role in disease,” outlined the reasons the mesentery is actually an organ and not a collection of tissues as previously believed. The peer-reviewed study even prompted an update of the world’s best-known medical textbook, Gray’s Anatomy.
Acknowledging the mesentery as an organ could have really interesting ramifications for the medical field and patients. This new organ has long been a mystery to doctors.
So What Does This Mean for Me?
What we already know is that the mesentery’s strategic place in the body, between the intestines and the rest of us, enables the intestine to connect to the abdominal wall without being directly attached. This prevents the intestines from collapsing into our pelvises when we stand upright. But other than that, scientists have always been a bit unsure about what to make of the mesentery.
By reclassifying it as an organ, Coffey believes a whole new world of research will open up.
“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,” he stated in a press release. “If you understand the function, you can identify abnormal function, and then you have disease. Put them all together and you have … the basis for a whole new area of science.”
Unsurprisingly, it’s the connection to the gut that excites researchers the most. We know about the gut-brain connection, so does this mean there’s another organ impacting our digestive and mental health? Because the mesentery stretches from the first part of the small intestine all the way to the rectum, the last part of the large intestine, it’s of interest to researchers who study a range of diseases.
According to the study, “data suggest increasingly that mesenteric events contribute to the regulation of systemic fibrinolytic, inflammatory and coagulation cascades.” Since inflammation is the root of most diseases, it’s clear we’ve got some exciting things to learn about this “new” organ.
In other words, learning more about the mesentery could help us learn more about diseases that begin in the gut, including Crohn’s disease symptoms or irritable bowel syndrome, and others that are affected by our microbiomes, like autoimmune disorders, diabetes and obesity.
Because of its tricky location, getting to the mesentery requires radiation or surgery. Still, a new focus on the organ could lead to less invasive ways of studying it.
It’s pretty great timing that this study came out in 2017 — after all, the top medical innovation for the year is gut health and using the microbiome to prevent and treat disease. Classifying the mesentery as an organ underscores the importance that the gut plays in our health and yet, how much more we have left to learn about it.
Improving Gut Health Now
While this new organ study ensures there will be years of research to come, it’s comforting to know we do know a few ways to influence gut health that you can put into practice right now.
Embrace a gut-friendly diet. Bone broth, coconut products, sprouted seeds, coconut products, fermented veggies like sauerkraut and raw cultured dairy like kefir all work to heal leaky gut and increase good bacteria in your microbiome.
Consider adding a probiotic supplement. There are 10 times more probiotics in your gut than cells in your body. So giving your bod a boost with a high-quality probiotic supplement is always a good idea. Combined with probiotic-rich foods, this will help good bacteria multiply while crowding out the bad stuff.
Skip antibiotics and added sugars. There are some things that cause bad bacteria to flourish and these two are the biggest culprits. Taking antibiotics sometimes can’t be helped. However, if you’re popping them for things like the common cold or flu — which antibiotics cannot wipe out, because these are viral infections — not only are you building up antibiotic resistance, but you’re killing off good bacteria, which can take months to repopulate.
Added sugars, like those found in ultra-processed foods and refined carbohydrates, also contribute to poor gut health. Why? They kill off probiotics in the digestive tract while providing food for the bad bacteria.
Final Thoughts on the New Organ Study
- In the 1980s, scientists said the mesentery, a membrane that connects the intestine to the abdomen, was tissue consisting of several different tissue parts.
- In 2016, a professor from Limerick, Ireland, determined that these fragmented structures are actually an organ.
- This brings the number of organs in the body to 79.
- Acknowledging the mesentery as an organ is sure to spark new research that could provide interesting ramifications for the medical field and patients.
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