Scientists have discovered a new human organ in the digestive system. Although the structure of this new organ was already known, its function is still poorly understood.
Scientists say studying it could be the key to better understanding and treatment of abdominal and digestive disease.
Named the mesentery, the organ was previously thought to consist of fragmented and disparate structures. Researchers found, however, that it is one continuous organ and outlined evidence to classify it as such in a review published in The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology.
“In the paper, which has been peer reviewed and assessed, we are now saying we have an organ in the body which hasn’t been acknowledged as such to date,” J. Calvin Coffey, a researcher from the University Hospital Limerick in Ireland, who first made the discovery, said in a release.
The mesentery is a double fold of the peritoneum, which is the lining of the abdominal cavity. It connects the intestine to the abdomen.
While the mesentery’s specific function is still unknown, studying it as an organ could lead to new discoveries about its impact on abdominal diseases.
“When we approach it like every other organ … we can categorize abdominal disease in terms of this organ,” Coffey said.