Meet the interstitium, medical science's latest and largest organ candidate
- Author: Jermaine Castillo Mar 29, 2018,
Mar 29, 2018, 1:50
Remarkably, the interstitium had previously gone unnoticed in spite of being one of the largest organs in the body, the authors note.
The so-called interstitium is an interconnected system of tiny fluid-filled cavities throughout the entire body that acts as a "highway" for our internal water supply, study co-author Dr. Neil Theise told.
The interstitium is an organ that was recently discovered by researchers in the human body.
In a news release, they also noted that the organ acts as a sort of "shock absorber" that protects the body's tissues from tearing, "as organs, muscles, and vessels squeeze, pump, and pulse as part of daily function".
Not only could the finding reshape our understanding of the human body, but scientists say it could help to explain why cancer is more likely to spread when it invades certain areas. An organ is a group of different tissues that work together to carry out a specific function.
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The interstitial space is the major fluid compartment in the body and the primary source of lymph, the authors note.
Medical researchers at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center in New York Dr David Carr-Locke and Dr Petros Benias came across the organ while searching for signs of cancer in a patient's bile duct. They suggest that sampling interstitial fluid from these compartments directly may even offer a new approach to diagnosing disease. Upon further scrutiny, they determined that the lattice is composed of collagen bundles that support fluid-filled spaces and are lined irregularly with flattened cells that produce two markers, one endothelial and one mesenchymal.
Researchers noted that the interstitium drains its fluids into the lymphatic system, which affects and regulates the body's immune response.
Nevertheless, Dr. Nathanson is not convinced the interstitium is actually an organ, but rather "a new component that is common among a variety of organs", he told CNN.
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"This discovery is extremely exciting because we've defined novel microanatomy and have laid the groundwork for how this may begin to explain cancer spread, inflammation and scarring of connective tissue".
With the pCLE, the researchers noticed an odd "reticular pattern" in the tissue around the bile duct they were examining. They spotted a series of interconnected cavities in the tissue layer that didn't match any known anatomy, according to the report. Because in ordinary tissue imaging and processing processes, the channels of that organ are "draining", and collagen fibers that help the network to gain a solid structure also collapse. Although the new organ has the crucial role of cushioning internal organs, it seems it can also carry cancer cells from tumors into the lymphatic system causing cancer to spread through the body. When the tissue samples were removed from the body, they were quickly frozen, which allowed the fluid-filled spaces to stay open so the researchers could see them under a microscope.
"These anatomic structures may be important in cancer metastasis, edema, fibrosis and mechanical functioning of many or all tissues and organs", the study's authors wrote.
However, knowing about it could lead to new treatments and better understanding.
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