Researchers from New York University’s School of Medicine say that they have discovered a new organ that has been hiding in plain sight. The study, recently published in Scientific Reports, shows that the organ, which they have named interstitium, is located just below the surface of the skin.
According to a recent National Geographic article, interstitium “is a layer of fluid-filled compartments strung together in a web of collagen and a flexible protein called elastin.” It is nearly everywhere and is found “surrounding arteries and veins, encasing the fibrous tissue between muscles, and lining our digestive tracts, lungs, and urinary systems.”
Scientists believe that the organ was missed because of the way tissue is studied. The method currently used to study tissue involves samples being sliced thinly and then treated with chemicals.
Although this does help to look at certain details more easily, this method drains the fluid in the sample and ends up flattening the compartments that make up the interstitium.
Scientists found what seemed to be tears, in the dense tissue of a bile duct they were looking at, but these actually turned out to be compartments of the new organ.
They took pictures, which were shown to Neil Theisse, the author of the paper and a professor at NYU’s School of Medicine, who theorizes that the interstitium’s purpose may have to do with the immune system, as it moves through the lymphatic system.
Theisse says that if we were to discover how diseases, such as cancer, spread through the interstitium it could help to better understand them and questions if we can “detect [disease] earlier by sampling fluid from the space” and if we can “figure out mechanisms to stop [spreading].”
To other scientists, the findings are promising, but more research still needs to be done around the interstitium.
Featured Image: Depositphotos/© depositedhar