Scientists discover new organ that acts as a built-in shock absorber

All other fluids in the body are potentially the interstitium that it might as well be one of the largest organs of the body, the researchers claim.

Scientists discover human interstitium organ and it can be possibly the human body's largest organ.

The interstitium is seen here beneath the top layer of skin, but is also in tissue layers lining the gut, lungs, and urinary systems, as well as those surrounding blood vessels and the fascia between muscles; the organ is a body-wide network of interconnected, fluid-filled compartments supported by a meshwork of strong, flexible proteins.

Scientists said in a study published Tuesday that they may have stumbled on a previously unknown organ - one of the biggest in the human body and one that could significantly advance our understanding of cancer and many other diseases. About two-thirds of that water is found inside cells, but the other third is outside cells and is known as "interstitial" fluid. This process drains the fluid in the tissue, hence, interstitium, being fluid, has never been observed until the researchers used the confocal laser.

"It is fair to say that histologists [and] pathologists have long known that there is an interstitial space and that it contains fluid", Anirban Maitra, a pathologist at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center who did not participate in the work, writes in an email to The Scientist.

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. While looking at the tissues around the bile duct and pancreatic ducts, they noticed a net-like structure surrounding fluid-filled spaces. The lymphatic system is a network of fine vessels that drains fluid (called lymph) from the various tissues of the body into the blood, taking away waste products and also bacteria and viruses.

He explained of the interstitium, "This has both".

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This groundbreaking discovery will open up new research methods into cancer diagnosis and treatment. The researchers examined tissue specimens of bile ducts from twelve cancer patients, and recognized the structure in each.

Researchers discovered the interstitium by using a novel medical technology - Probe-based confocal laser endomicroscopy.

The organ's true goal was finally discovered during a routine endoscopy looking at a patient's bile duct. It has been identified in connective tissues, including those just below the surface of the skin. This means that diving more deeply into the structure and function of this new human organ could help identify and diagnose cancer at an earlier stage.

Intrigued by what they had found, the researchers froze the biopsies and took a closer look at them under the microscope.

The scientists then compared the biopsies with healthy tissue samples, yielding the same result: the network of fluid-filled compartments was unequivocally there.

On a fundamental level, it says, "our findings necessitate reconsideration of numerous normal functional activities of different organs and of disordered fluid dynamics in the setting of disease, including fibrosis and metastasis" - that is, the spread of cancer.

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