You’d think we had the human body pretty well figured out, given there are 7 billion of us milling around to be potentially dissected.
Not so, apparently, as scientists believe they have discovered a new organ.
A new study published today says the interstitium is a network of fluid filled tubes all around the body which could act as a shock absorber.
This organ is not necessarily one we’re going to embrace, as it could also act as a conduit for cancerous cells to move to different parts of the body.
However, knowing about it could lead to new treatments and better understanding.
If it is indeed an organ, it could be the biggest of 80 in the human body, found under the skin and also line veins and arteries, muscles, the gut and every visceral organ.
Previously, scientists had seen it but believed it was thought to be made up of dense connective tissue.
When slides were examined that’s what it looked like, because to make a slide the fluid is drained away as part of the process.
Its true nature was realised during a routine endoscopy looking at a patient’s bile duct.
Doctors noticed what looked like a network of capillaries, but clearly couldn’t be that because it would have picked up the fluorescent dye they were using.
New York University pathologist Dr Neil Theise said: ‘This finding has potential to drive dramatic advances in medicine.
‘This includes the possibility that the direct sampling of interstitial fluid may become a powerful diagnostic tool.
‘Once tumour’s get in, they’re like a water slide.
‘We have a new window on the mechanism of tumours spreading.’