Our bodies are amazing things. They are complex living machines full of thousands of different pieces—bones, organs, filaments, nerves—that all serve a purpose. From eyebrows to femurs, spinal cords to heart valves, everything big and small is there for a reason. And now you can add one more piece to that list.
Allow us to introduce you to the newest organ in the human body: the mesentery.
What is it exactly?
The mesentery's name means "in the middle of the intestines", and that is a good clue to where it is found. The intestines (we have both a large and small intestine) are a long, coiled part of our digestive system. As food travels through our intestines, it is broken down into things our body can use, and things that our body can throw away. As organs go, the intestines are up there in importance.
The mesentery is what connects our intestines to our abdominal wall. It is like a support structure that holds everything in place.
How did they miss this?
Sounds pretty important, no? And also pretty obvious. Which then leads to a fair question: How did doctors and scientists miss the mesentery all this time? Well, they didn't miss it entirely. Instead, they thought that it was something else.
In the past, what is now known as the mesentery was thought to be a bunch of separate structures that did little more than keep things where they should be. Like a bunch of paper clips or hooks in your tummy. But since 2012, scientists began new research has now revealed that the entire series of connections are one big organ! And now the leading set of medical textbooks in the world, Gray's Anatomy, has added the mesentery to its pages. So it's official: we all have a mesentery!
What is its importance?
The thing about that is, scientists don't exactly know. When scientists just saw the mesentery as a bunch of velcro straps inside your stomach, they saw them as pretty insignificant. But now they know that it is one big organ that is full of nerves, blood vessels, and lymphatic tubes (carrying white blood cells) all connected to our intestines. These are important things, for sure. But knowing exactly how it is important? Well, that takes more research.
Either way, it's not often that we get to welcome a new year with a new organ! Go, human body, go!