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Has a New Organ in the Human Body Been Discovered?

a glowing open boxStory Highlights

  • A team of doctors have identified a previously unrecognized characteristic of the human body that they have classified as a new organ.
  • The “Interstitium” refers to a network of fluid-filled cavities surrounding tissues and organs that may act as shock absorbers and mass transit system throughout the body.
  • The discovery promises to redefine concepts of how the human body functions and may provide new understanding of how cancer and other diseases are spread throughout the body.

Pathologist Neil Theise, MD of New York University and endoscopy experts David Carr-Locke, MD and Petros Benias, MD of New York’s Mount Sinai Beth Israel recently announced the results of a study in which they discovered a previously unrecognized “organ” of the human body, and they say it might be the biggest one of them all.1

Dubbed “the Interstitia,” the structure the scientists identified is a network of fluid-filled collagen and connective tissue that is present throughout the body. They described it as “the anatomy and histology of a previously unrecognized, though widespread, macroscopic, fluid-filled space within and between tissues.”1

Knowledge that the interstitium exists is not new, but its interconnectedness and potential for transporting harmful substances like cancer cells throughout the human body is a new discovery.

The word interstitial means “Pertaining to being between things, especially between things that are normally closely spaced.”2 In non-medical terms, it can refer for example to a sub-ceiling that houses the mechanical structures for a building. In medicine, it is used to describe the cells, fluids and spaces between tissues and parts of organs in the body.

Interstitial cells and fluid are found in the spaces around cells of a given organ (like the spaces between the air sacs of the lungs) and help transport oxygen and nutrients and waste products into or out of the cells. It drains into the lymph system, which plays an important role in immunity. Previously, the interstitiumit was thought to be specific to a particular tissue or area of the body rather than functioning as a system-wide superhighway that connects all parts of the body.

A Novel Idea About Interstitial Space

The revolutionary change in understanding of the interstitium was made possible because of a new technology called “probe-based confocal laser endomicroscopy,” which allows researchers to examine living tissue instead of relying on traditional prepared microscope slides.3 It was during such an examination of a patient’s bile duct to check for cancer spread that the doctors noticed a series of “interconnected cavities in this submucosal tissue level that [did] not match any known anatomy.”4

Drs. Theise,  Carr-Locke, and Benias suspected that the “densely-packed barrier-like walls of collagen,” as the interstitial space was previously understood, only looked that way because tissue-sampling techniques involved removing all of the fluid from the slide samples, forcing the collagen framework to collapse and stick together into what seemed like a dense layer. They hypothesized that the interstitium, instead, is a complex of fluid-filled interstitial spaces held by a lattice-like network of collagen. Thus, the whole is flexible and can be compressed and distended, acting as a sort of shock absorber that “keep tissues from tearing as organs, muscles, and vessels squeeze, pump, and pulse as part of daily function.”5 It is also subject to directional flow caused by the alternating contraction and relaxation of the body.6

First observed in the human extra-hepatic (liver) bile duct, similar structures were subsequently confirmed in many other parts of the body, including the skin, gastrointestinal tract, urinary tract, lungs, musculoskeletal system, blood vessels and fat tissue… anywhere “tissues moved or were compressed by force.”

Drs. Theise, Carr-Locke and Benias explained that the interstitial space may actually comprise a system of “dynamically compressible and distensible sinuses through which interstitial fluid flows around the body,” potentially acting as a “conduit for movement of injurious agents, pro-fibrogenic signaling molecules, and tumor cells.”7 It was previously recognized that permeation of the interstitial space is a necessary first step in the spread of cancer metastasis.

It’s Important, But is It a New Organ?

Its status as a new organ is not being embraced universally. The study’s authors contend that it should be considered an organ, as the skin is, because it has both a “unitary structure” and a “unitary function.” According to co-senior investigator Theise, “This has both…This structure is the same wherever you look at it, and so are the functions that we’re starting to elucidate.”8

Michael Nathanson, MD, professor of medicine and cell biology and chief of the section of digestive diseases at Yale University School of Medicine, however, disagrees. He says, “I would think of this as a new component that is common among a variety of organs, rather than a new organ in and of itself… It would be analogous to discovering blood vessels for the first time, in that they are in every organ but they aren’t an organ themselves.”9

What there seems to be a consensus on is that Theise,  Carr-Locke and Beniashave have “identified a previously unknown feature of human anatomy with implications for the function of all organs, most tissues, and the mechanisms of most major diseases.”10


References:

1 Benias PC, et al. Structure and Distribution of an Unrecognized Interstitium in Human Tissues. Scientific Reports Mar. 27, 2018.
2 Interstitial defininition. MedicineNet.
3 Press Release. Researchers Find New ‘Organ’ Missed by Gold Standard Methods for Visualizing Anatomy & Disease.  Mar. 27, 2018.
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid.
6 See Footnote 1.
7 Ibid.
8 Howard J.  Newfound ‘Organ’ Could Be the Biggest in Your Body. CNN Mar. 31, 2018.
9 Ibid.
10 See Footnote 3.

5 Responses to Has a New Organ in the Human Body Been Discovered?

  1. Tria Shaffer Reply

    May 30, 2018 at 10:14 am

    This “new” organ has been known to bodywork therapists since the 1980s; we call it fascia. French hand surgeon Jean-Claude Guimberteau has written a fascinating informative book titled “Architecture of Human Living Fascia: The extracellular matrix and cells revealed through endoscopy”. These doctors would do well to keep an eye on what is happening in CAM, in other words, keep up. I find their “discovery” a bit hilarious and condescending to those of us who pick up the pieces of people’s health as best we can after doctors get done with them.

  2. Adrienne Rubino Reply

    May 30, 2018 at 4:44 am

    Sounds like “fatty liver disease” and they have never read about it yet! When fatty liver gets real bad it collects fluid in the stomach. The cure for this disease is taking a supplement of Choline and Inositol. They are nothing more than a b-vitamin. Do your homework and you will see these deficient vitamins are the cause of all disease. Our life styles and soils that raise our food are devoid of vitiams and minerals.

    • Ed Nichol Reply

      June 8, 2018 at 10:02 pm

      Adreinne, your note on deficiencies is along the same line that led me to the an anti ageing chemical in the Q Group. One of the surprises were statements over and over of how critical the Q group is. The second surprise was the importance of a surplus of nutrients so that cells such nerve cells have access to nutrients. My guess is that muscle cells scavenge nutrients from all other cells and the new organ (?) must be well supplied to fuel nerves.

  3. Leonard Mehlmauer Reply

    May 29, 2018 at 4:04 pm

    The Interstitium, formerly called the Organ of Schade, is perhaps best thought of as a system rather than an organ in view of its shapelessness. In any case, it has many functions, perhaps chief among them transportation and elimination of waste products. This process is described in the Physical Iridology MapBook (www.eyology.com).
    While anatomy is usually thought of as a static science–with all of the organs and systems already known and named–this sort of discovery shows us that, along with physiology (which is acknowledged as a dynamic science), there is yet a great deal more to be discovered about the human body.

  4. Jo Reply

    May 29, 2018 at 10:29 am

    “Dubbed “the Interstitia,” the structure the scientists identified is a network of fluid-filled collagen and connective tissue that is present throughout the body.”

    “Knowledge that the interstitium exists is not new, but its interconnectedness and potential for transporting harmful substances like cancer cells throughout the human body is a new discovery.”

    WELL, if it is a connective tissue present throughout the body why WOULD it NOT transport harmful (like cancer) as well as beneficial substances throughout the body?

    Yes, of course, I’m sure more “studies” are needed to keep people suckling at the government teat.

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