June 24, 2018

Scientists discover a huge new human organ hiding in plain sight

29 March 2018, 01:47 | Leigh Flowers

Fluid-filled channels may cushion our organsCNRI SCIENCE

Gall bladder and bile ducts

Theise believes that these networks of fluid channels could exist on every tissue in the body, consequentially constituting an organ itself.

In a news release, they also noted that the organ acts as a sort of "shock absorber" that protects the body's tissues from tearing, "as organs, muscles, and vessels squeeze, pump, and pulse as part of daily function".

"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", the researchers write in a published paper in Scientific Reports ("Structure and Distribution of an Unrecognized Interstitium in Human Tissues"). "The presence of fluid has important implications for tissue function and pathology", the team adds.

The researchers observed a net-like structure surrounding fluid-filled spaces around the bile duct. For decades it did not show up on standard microscopic slides used by researchers.

Using this technology in the fall of 2015 at Beth Israel Medical Center, endoscopists and study co-authors David Carr-Locke, MD, and Petros Benias, MD, saw something unusual while probing a patient's bile duct for cancer spread.

"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 process causes the fluid-filled cavities to shrink and collapse, and the squashed cells had been overlooked. The researchers soon realised the tissue drains directly into the lymphatic system, which is where the spread of cancer can accelerate throughout the body at rapid pace.

Theise says that this is found in interstitium, which totals about "10 litres of fluid" inside the human body. Instead, what the researchers from NYU's School of Medicine introduce is a new way of investigating cancer tissues.

The interstitium is made up of both strong (collagen) and flexible (elastin) connective tissue proteins, with interstitial fluid moving throughout.

The discovery of the mesh-like structure prompts further probing of pancreas and bile duct of 12 cancer patients.

The paper describes "an interesting new understanding on human anatomy" where a new technique (Confocal Laser Endomicroscopy) allows for a virtual biopsy of tissue inside in the living body without damaging those cells. For example, the findings appear to explain why cancer tumors that invade this layer of tissue can spread to the lymph nodes. The patterned tissue had dark, branching bands surrounding large, dye-filled polygonal spaces. Because in ordinary tissue imaging and processing processes, the channels of that organ are "draining", and collagen fibers that help the network to gain a solid structure also collapse.

This is the second time in as many years humans have learned details about a new organ. "This more detailed characterisation of this sub region of the body may open up new areas for better understanding of some diseases and indeed the movement and spread (metastasis) of cancer cells".

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