Scientists Have Discovered A Hitherto Unknown Organ, The Interstitium

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The researchers are calling this network of fluid-filled spaces an organ-the interstitium.

Co-senior author, Dr. Neil Theise, a pathologist at NYU Langone Health in NY, points out that the interstitium may actually be the largest organ in the human body.

The interstitium is an organ that was recently discovered by researchers in the human body.

Newly identified networks of interconnected, fluid-filled chambers that line tissues throughout the human body may qualify as a completely new organ, researchers report in a study published Tuesday in Scientific Reports. It could be the interstitium that has to be breached by the cancer cells in order for them to spread he said. The current research team found that the removal of fluid as slides are made causes the connective protein meshwork surrounding once fluid-filled compartments to pancake, like the floors of a collapsed building.

Doctors in the United States were carrying out an endoscopy on a cancer patient's bile duct when they found that the interstitium seemed to be full of fluid-filled cavities connected by a series of channels. They suggest that sampling interstitial fluid from these compartments directly may even offer a new approach to diagnosing disease. While two-thirds of that liquid remains inside cells, the remaining water called interstitial fluid is free to move throughout cavities inside the body.

Essentially, it's believed that the interstitium is helping cancerous cells travel directly to the lymphatic system, which carries lymph fluid directly to the heart and is a key part of our circulatory system.

Both the United Kingdom and global media have had a field day, with The Sun saying the "organ" hadn't "been noticed until now", despite the fact that the term interstitium has been used to describe this tissue for years. Instead, what the researchers from NYU's School of Medicine introduce is a new way of investigating cancer tissues.

The bubble wrap-like network only became visible when the pathologists used a new laser endoscope, called a confocal laser endomicroscope, that allowed them to see microscopic tissues in living people.

In 2015, doctors called endoscopists, who peer inside the body using long, flexible tubes with cameras on them, found something unusual when they were using a new technology that adds a laser and a tiny microscope to light up living tissues inside a patient's bile duct.

The new organ contains strong (collagen) and flexible (elastin) connective tissue proteins.

Neil Theise, MD, professor in the Department of Pathology at NYU Langone Health, believed the discovery may help explain how cancer spreads throughout the body - and may lead to new methods of treating it.

For decades they appeared on slides but were dismissed as a layer of connective tissue.

The organ's role in the spread of cancer is a major question: The scientists say the little chambers form a "highway of moving fluid".

They add, "These anatomic structures may be important in cancer metastasis, edema, fibrosis, and mechanical functioning of many or all tissues and organs".

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.