You might have thought there are 78 organs in the human body, but there might be 79 now. This hidden structure is behind the skin of your stomach and your abdominal muscles. Known as the mesentery, it’s now being classified as a human organ.
Scientists at the University of Limerick in Ireland published a review in Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology, which defended this structure as an organ, according to Quartz. The mesentery serves as a type of crimped tissue that anchors the small intestines to the back of the abdominal wall.
“[The mesentery] keeps the intestine in a particular shape,” said J. Calvin Coffey, a general and colorectal surgeon at the University of Limerick to Quartz. “[That way] when you stand up, [your intestine] doesn’t fall into your pelvis.”
The discovery of the mesentery is not new to scientists. Leonardo da Vinci noted it in his anatomical drawings during the 1400s. The structure continues to be included in medical textbooks from the 1800s until today.
In 2012, Coffey and his colleagues identified instead that the mesentery is “a continual structure by peeling away layers of cells in the gut.” After years of research, they have now gathered information in a proposal to reclassify the mesentery as an organ.
“During the initial research, we noticed in particular that the mesentery, which connects the gut to the body, was one continuous organ. Up to that it was regarded as fragmented, present here, absent elsewhere and a very complex structure,” Professor Coffey said in a press release. “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.”
The Washington Post reports that scientists hope this review would shine a light on the body part in order to widen the field of mesenteric science. It can then offer more focus to the function of the structure and the fight against gut diseases such as Crohn’s. There’s already been one change for this talked-about structure, as noted by the study’s authors, it’s now described as “continuous” in the 41st and most recent edition of “Gray’s Anatomy.”
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