It's not everyday that you hear about the discovery of a new organ, mostly because it's basically understood that human anatomy doesn't really change from person to person. Sure, we don't need our appendices so much these days, but that's hardly news.
However doctors may have just discovered that we've had an organ this whole time the entire medical community never spotted: the interstitium.
It's being described as a "network of fluid-filled spaces" in our human tissue, and these little pockets of fluid are found all over our body. Our digestive tracts, urinary systems, lungs, and the muscles surrounding these areas have spaces populated with interstitium.
Before, researchers thought that these were "walls" of collagen, but it's rather a "fluid-filled highway", according to Dr. Neil Theise, a pathology professor at NYU Langone School of Medicine wrote in his study.
One might wonder just how so many scientists, doctors, and researchers missed this part of the body for so long. The answer lies in the very nature of our research processes.
When tissue samples are prepared to be put under the microscope, they're cut up and treated with chemicals before they're placed on a slide. The issue with this prep process is that it causes the small spaces to collapse, so they can't be viewed under the scope.
Researchers were able to finally discover it after using a new, less invasive form of imaging technology in the human body.
What's really crazy is that the interstitium isn't even a small organ - it could very well be the largest one in our bodies at a whopping volume of 10 liters.
Technically, before it can be officially labeled an organ and join the 79 others that we know of in our bodies, the interstitium needs to be studied more by the scientific community. The presence of these "fluid filled spaces" ultimately need to be confirmed by other research groups before it can proudly rock the moniker of "organ."
While the find is exciting purely because in this day and age where we thought we knew everything there was to know about human anatomy, the interstitium could have huge implications for future cancer research.
Since these fluid-filled spaces are all connected and work closely with our lymphatic system, it could easily explain how cancer cells can travel through these spaces to attack our lymph nodes.
The other function of the interstitium is that of a "shock absorber." It provides vital space to protect our tissues - think of it as a buffer wall.
Now it's important to note that scientists knew of the interstitum space for a long time, just not that there were interconnected fluid-filled pathways in it.
The discovery is giving us a new perspective on the way our bodies behave. Some are calling it "social construction."
The discovery obviously has a lot of people talking.
Of course, there are jokes to be made about the discovery - it's just one other thing to be paranoid about.
While others are just excited that in a subject as old as human anatomy, new things are being figured out.
So if you're a medical professional and you're looking for a niche field to become a specialist in, it might be a good time to get studying the fluid-filled spaces in the interstitium.