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A new study is suggesting researchers found a new organ in the human body, which could have a big impact on the diagnosis and treatment of cancers, including mesothelioma. These researchers found a dense network of connective tissues and fluid-filled compartments in the body, called the interstitium, that could be identified as an organ because of the tissue groups’ abilities to perform specialized tasks for various other organs.
Researchers explained the interstitium went previously unrecognized because the traditional biopsy, tissue sample, would drain the liquid away in the process. Interstitial tissues are said to appear flat and solid under the microscope, rather than as sacs of liquid. These qualities have enabled the potential organ to remain unrecognized in the human body up until this point.
Though further research is needed to determine if the interstitium should in fact be classified as its own organ, understanding how the interstitial fluid works could be significant in diagnosing and tracking the spread of cancer and other serious diseases. This is largely because this fluid is a source of lymph, a fluid that circulates throughout the lymphatic system and contains white blood cells. The lymph system is an important aspect of the body’s immune system, as it helps attack bacteria and foreign cells.
Cancer research in the last several years has been heavily focused on treatments like immunotherapy, which harness the immune system to combat cancer. It has shown promise in a wide variety of cancers, including mesothelioma. This potential discovery could help researchers further hone in on better ways to help boost the immune system to kill cancer cells.
In addition to potentially helping with cancer treatment, researchers focused on the interstitium’s possible influence in diagnosing and tracking disease through the body. This could have a direct impact on diagnosing mesothelioma, as some cases are believed to develop with the help of the lymphatic system once the asbestos has been inhaled or ingested. The fibers can travel to essentially anywhere in the body via the lymphatic system, but this has been more specifically linked to peritoneal mesothelioma. Recognizing this connection could lead to possible new ways to diagnose the disease before it develops into a more advanced stage.
Because the interstitium can be found throughout the body, the researchers believe understanding it could have impacts on diseases and conditions linked to any health system in the body, especially a better understanding of how metastasis or spreading of these diseases may occur. With this in mind, the scientists argue that research around this new organ could go hand-in-hand with ongoing research around new treatments and diagnostic methods, and also presents the need for a new analysis of the microanatomy of the body as a whole.