A New Organ?

Kelly Shen is back again with another fascinating topic in science – made short and sweet just for you! Let’s read about a potential new discovery in the human body

(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

It’s not every day that we discover a new organ, but scientists did just that. Though it isn’t an organ yet, the discovery of the interstitium has sparked debates – and could potentially be the newest organ in the human body.

What is the Interstitium? 

The interstitium is a fluid-filled space existing between a structural barrier, such as a cell wall or the skin, and internal structures, such as organs, including muscles and the circulatory system. It is a network that surrounds nearly every organ in the human body. The interstitium was previously mistaken to just be connective tissue, which is not a new discovery.

Connective tissue is tissue that supports, protects, and gives structure to other tissues and organs in the body. These include bone, cartilage, fat, blood, and lymphatic tissue. However, when researchers began to study the interstitium, the realized that it wasn’t just connective tissue – there were fluid filled sacs connected by strong and flexible tissue, leading scientists to believe they had discovered something new

Why didn’t we know about this before?

Usually, when tissue is placed under the microscope and examined, it is dried first to remove the fluid. Under the microscope, connective tissue and interstitial tissue look the exact same. When researchers decided to look at it without compressing it first, that’s when they noticed the fluid filled sacs. 

So, when will it become an organ?

This is the criteria for a body part to be named an organ: a body that is both self-contained and sufficient—and it performs a specific function. Scientists argue that unlike connective tissue the interstitium is a network of active proteins that work together. It’s function? They think that the interstitium acts as a sort of shock absorber. It flattens and stretches, and might be working to keep tissues in the body from tearing as other organs and muscles in the body move about.

Unfortunately, scientists must all unanimously agree to make the interstitium an organ, and that could take a few years. For now, it’s just one really cool body part. 

By Axel de Vernou

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