New research has confirmed that the mesentery, once though to be a series of fragmented structures, is actually a single continuous organ connecting the intestines to the rest of the abdomen.
Further proof that much remains unknown about the human body was revealed recently when scientists discovered a new organ in the human body, bringing the total number of organs present in the body to 79. Lying in plain sight, the newly classified organ – known as the mesentery – was long thought to be a series of fragmented structures. Located in the abdominal cavity, the mesentery attaches the intestine to the wall of the abdomen, adding structural integrity to the lower digestive system. One of its earliest mentions was actually made by Leonardo da Vinci who identified the mesentery as continuous. As a result, medical illustrators, physicians, and surgeons for four centuries depicted the structure as more or less continuous. However, findings in the 19th century which suggested the mesentery was actually fragmented won out and became accepted as scientific fact.
Yet, new research, published in The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology, has confirmed that Da Vinci was right after all as the mesentery has now been proven, without a doubt, to actually be a single continuous organ. J Calvin Coffey, the lead researcher and Professor of Surgery at University of Limerick’s Graduate Entry Medical School, confirmed back in 2012 that the mesentery is actually a continuous structure. In the years since he and his research team have collected even more evidence that it should be classified as an independent organ. Coffey said that “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.”
This latest discovery (or re-discovery) of the organ has the potential to shake-up medical science. One of the world’s best-known series of medical textbooks – Gray’s Anatomy – has already been updated to reflect the new research. Medical students and researchers are already embracing the new findings and some will now begin to investigate the mesentery’s potential role in abdominal diseases as much of the organ’s function remains unknown. Coffey remarked that “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 disease. Put them all together and you have the field of mesenteric science … the basis for a whole new area of science. […] This is relevant universally as it affects all of us.” Some of the advances expected from mesenteric research are less invasive surgeries, fewer complications, faster patient recovery, and lower overall costs.
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