Give your stomach a little pat – somewhere, buried amongst your digestive system, lies a spanking new member of your internal organ family.
A four-year medical study has concluded that mesentery, a gut-hugging feature that attaches the stomach, small intestine, pancreas, spleen and other organs to the wall of your abdomen, is not the lowly ‘series of structures’ it was first thought to be, but rather a mysterious (and pretty gross-looking) organ that might hold the key to treating abdominal and digestive diseases. In short, all those ‘parts’ detailed in the image up there are now considered as one big important thing.
Why the mystery? Well, because scientists still don’t know exactly what the mesentery does just yet. "Whether the mesentery should be viewed as part of the intestinal, vascular, endocrine, cardiovascular, or immunological systems is so far unclear, as it has important roles in them all," the research, led by J Calvin Coffey, a professor of surgery at the University of Limerick, stated.
Coffey went on to say that the new classification has us entering “a whole new year of science”.
“Now we have established anatomy and the structure,” he said. “The next step is the function. If you understand the function you can identify abnormal function, and then you have disease. Put them all together and you have the field of mesenteric science.”
It’s believed that further study of the freshly promoted anatomical feature, which takes the number of organs you’re rocking in your bod up to 79, could eventually lead to less invasive surgeries, fewer complications on the operating table, faster recoveries and lower hospital costs.
Amazingly, historical brainiac Leonardo da Vinci described the mesentery in papers dating back to 1508, but was generally ignored by doctors for centuries.