AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: organs

A NEW “Organ” Has Been Discovered!

What is it?

In March of last year, scientists discovered a new organ inside humans. It is called an Interstitium. Located all over the body from under the skin to lining the digestive track, these fluid filled spaces are believed to act as shock absorbers to protect tissues during daily functions.

These sacs do not appear on standard microscope slides because the process of treating tissue samples with chemicals drains away the fluid which explains why they have been missed for so long. They were discovered by using newer imaging techniques that did not require the use of chemicals.

The Interstitium could help cancer research as these findings explain why cancer tumors that invade this layer of tissue which are filled with lymph spread to the lymph nodes.

lymph and lymph nodes

Is it an organ?

In order for a body part to become an organ, there needs to be a general consensus in the research community. Thus it will take a little time in order to characterize it as an official organ. One case for calling it an organ is the fact that 1/3 of the body’s water called interstitial fluid is in this connective network of the interstitium. In addition, the interstitium helped cast a light on what the other 1/3 of the body’s water does.

Personally, I do believe it should be categorized as an organ as an organ is defined according to the Webster Dictionary as a part of an organism that is typically self-contained and has a specific vital function. The interstitium is self contained and while there is no definitive answer to what it does yet, it does seem to play a vital role in shock absorption and containment of lymph. As it becomes more clear what the interstitium specifically does.

I am also excited to see future research on it because it might lead to new medical advances especially in the field of cancer.


All Organs are Sexual!

Well, in the sense that female non-sexual organs and male non-sexual organs aren’t the same, as they’ve been commonly considered to be. According to a team at the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre (CSC), at Imperial College London, the stem cells that make up your organs do have a sexual identity attached to them, and thus behave differently than their sexual counterparts. In this study, a female fruit fly’s gut was observed to have enlarged after mating, likely due to the increased nutritional intake to rear healthy offspring. The reason this isn’t done all the time is that this makes it more likely for tumors to develop in the gut, so this is only done when the sake of their progeny is at stake.

(This fruit fly may be female, but her intestines were made to identify as male. There’s potentially some conflicted gender identity.)

What’s interesting is that when the female fruit fly was given male gut stem cells, the gut no longer enlarged after mating, and retained the smaller gut size of males. It turns out that the sex organs are not the only organs that have a sexual identity. At least, in fruit flies. No tests have been done on human organs yet, although it is believed that the principle will hold true, albeit in potentially different ways.

(Artist rendition of stem cells)

Medically this is significant since it may lead to explanations or understandings of how and why male and female patients may need different medical treatments since their organs function somewhat differently. Furthermore, it continues to advance our understanding of how males and females are different based on the nuances of the physical workings of their body. Overall, it’s very confusing when you apply this to gender theory.

But humans have had a poor understanding of their own bodies and inner workings for thousands of years. Is it possible that this is on the path to a deeper understanding of our physiology as a gendered species, or that these differences are conditional and minute, as I so far believe?



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