Scientists have confirmed that what was previously thought to be a group of different, distinct structures in the digestive system of the human body is a single organ.
In a review published in The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology, researchers described the newly discovered organ. It is a “double fold of peritoneum”. The peritoneum is the lining of the abdominal cavity that holds our intestine to the wall of our abdomen.
Scientists have named the organ as the mesentery. It was first described in the early 16th century by Leonardo da Vinci but, until today, it thought of as an arrangement of unrelated structures in the abdomen. However, since 2012 it was subject to increasing scrutiny and, after years of study, now it has been discovered that the mesentery has a uniform function and means of operation.
Researchers believe that this will open up an entirely new field of study. The team’s J. Calvin Coffey described it as a “whole new area of science”. “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,” Research Professor Coffey stated.
The function of the mesentery is yet to be determined. It will take further investigation and study. Professor Coffey said “This is relevant universally as it affects all of us. Up to now, there was no such field as mesenteric science. Now we have established anatomy and the structure. The next step is the function. If you understand the function, you can identify abnormal function, and then you have the disease. Put them all together, and you have the field of mesenteric science…the basis for a whole new area of science.”
Medical textbooks are already being updated to include the definition of the mesentery. Further research is expected to bring to light new treatment procedures for digestive or abdominal disorders.
Including the five vital organs (heart, brain, liver, lungs, kidneys), there are 79 organs in the human body – including the mesentery.