Scientists have discovered a 79th organ in the human body that is part of the digestive system. While knowledge of the organ, known as the mesentery, goes back hundreds of years to Leonardo DaVinci’s anatomical drawings, it was thought to consist of separate parts until now. A November paper published in The Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology by Dr. J. Calvin Coffey, has shown that it is one continuous organ. The paper even contends that “mesenteric science” warrants its own specialized field of study.

The organ functions to connect the intestines to the abdominal wall. It is a double fold of connective tissue connected to the peritoneum, the membrane that lines the abdominal cavity, connecting the stomach, small intestine, pancreas, spleen, and other organs to the abdominal wall.

Coffey said in a press release:

“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. 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,” he said.

Scientists will now have to determine the exact function of the mesentery, which is still unknown. It is clear, however that they serve to keep the intestines in a certain formation. An improved understanding of normal versus abnormal functioning of the mesentery could contribute to a better grasp on how that functioning can contribute to disease. Coffey said that scientists are fairly certain that the organ is involved in at least some abdominal disease. He said an improved understanding of the mesentery could lead to less invasive surgeries, fewer complications, and faster patient recovery.

Speaking to the Huffington Post, Coffey said:

“When the mesentery does not attach to the abdominal wall in the manner in which it usually does, then it can twist on its blood supply. This causes the blood supply to stop, and the intestine undergoes necrosis or dies. This is incompatible with life.”

According to Coffey:

“We need to reinterpret many diseases with a new anatomic model in mind. When you understand the normal appearing mesentery then you are better positioned to identify abnormalities and the abnormalities that we see in disease.”

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