MAR 28, 2018 02:47 PM PDT

Scientists Discover a New Part of the Human Body

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Amazingly, scientists and doctors have discovered an apparently overlooked part of human anatomy, which may help explain some mysterious occurrences in cancer. Doctors were analyzing human tissue, and came across open spaces, filled with fluid and supported by bundles of collagen; it was something that caught their attention because they didn’t know what it was. An expert in such analysis, Dr. Neil Theise, a professor of pathology at New York University Langone School of Medicine, realized that he had seen these structures before, but only after they had collapsed as the tissue was processed.

Using a technique that enabled them to see live tissue on the microscopic scale, researchers discovered that there was a network of these fluid sacs in many different places. They surround muscle, lie below the surface of the skin, and line the digestive tract, urinary system, and lungs; they have been called the interstitium. Theise and others have published their findings in Scientific Reports

The investigators believe that the fluid in this network drains into the lymphatic system, and may act as a kind of shock absorber, protecting the internal parts of the body. It is notable that these sacs are found in places where there is a lot of movement, like where food passes through the digestive system and where blood vessels have to contract and expand as blood pulses through them so many times, and without tearing. 

The existence of the interstitium could also explain how cancers that grow in this tissue can quickly get to the lymph nodes and spread to other places in the body. The fluid is ferrying it everywhere. 

The interstitium was found in connective tissue, including the dermis (the middle, dark layer) / Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

While interstitial fluid, the stuff between cells, is well known, this is the first time scientists have seen evidence of an organized matrix of fluid pockets. It has been only vaguely suggested before, said Theise, who thinks this could be an organ. That designation will have to wait for a larger scientific consensus. 

Theise elaborated more about what the interstitium is in a discussion with ResearchGate. “It is a space where extracellular fluid gathers, i.e. the fluid of the body that is not contained within cells. Some such spaces are obvious: the cardiovascular system containing the fluid of blood, the lymphatics themselves, the space within skull and spine containing cerebrospinal fluid. These other spaces, however, are estimated to contain only about one-quarter of the extracellular fluid. The majority, approximately 20 percent of the fluid volume of the body, comprising approximately 10 liters, is contained within the interstitium.”

The scientists used a technique called probe-based confocal laser endomicroscopy - pCLE to learn more about the interstitium. It allows for microscopic viewing during the use of an endoscope. 

We will surely be hearing more about this discovery as researchers learn more about it.


Sources: Live Science, Research Gate, Scientific Reports

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
NOV 05, 2018
Immunology
NOV 05, 2018
Amino Acid Helps to Promote T cells
Scientists at Vanderbilt show that the amino acid glutamine can contribute to a subset of T cell function and activation...
NOV 24, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
NOV 24, 2018
Alzheimer's Researchers Detect Genetic Recombination in the Brain
Our genomic sequence is thought to remain the same throughout our lives. But new research has found evidence to the contrary....
NOV 26, 2018
Neuroscience
NOV 26, 2018
Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex Central For Imagination Mitigated Fear
Extinction; presenting fear in a neutral setting where the negative consequences are negated is one of the successful fear conditioning mechanisms...
NOV 28, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
NOV 28, 2018
Microbes with an Expanded Genetic Code can Generate new Proteins with Special Properties
In recent years, scientists have created microbes that incorporate new nucleotide bases and new amino acids....
DEC 03, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
DEC 03, 2018
Reducing the Potential for Negative Side Effects in CRISPR
CRISPR-Cas9 is an amazing gene-editing tool, but there are some drawbacks. This work aims to fix that....
DEC 03, 2018
Microbiology
DEC 03, 2018
Finding Emerging Viruses
Scientists have developed a tool that enables them to predict what viruses be transmissible between infected people....
Loading Comments...