an. 4, 2017 -- Scientists say they've identified a new organ in the body -- a swath of tissue dubbed the mesentery that connects the intestine to the abdomen and holds everything in place.
For years, anatomical experts have thought the organ was composed of several different segments of tissue, as opposed to being one single structure, according to Discover magazine. Since an organ must be one structure that performs a vital function, it was not deemed worthy of organ status.
But recent research from doctors at the University Hospital Limerick in Ireland shows that the mesentery is actually one single band of tissue, the magazine reported Tuesday. It begins at the pancreas and wraps around the small intestine and colon. Its purpose: to hold these organs in position so they can perform their respective functions.
"Without it you can't live," lead researcher Dr. J. Calvin Coffey, a colorectal surgeon at Limerick, told the magazine. "There are no reported instances of a Homo sapien living without a mesentery."
"Understanding how and why our digestive system is arranged the way it is could be crucial to our understanding of diseases like Crohn's and irritable bowel syndrome," Coffey added.
"There are a lot of diseases that we are stalled on, and we need to refresh our approach to these diseases," Coffey said. "Now that we've clarified its [the mesentery's] structure, we can systematically examine it. We're at a very exciting place right now."
The discovery was published recently in the Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology journal.