New organ discovery has implications for cancer treatment

pharmafile | March 27, 2018 | News story | Research and Development biotech, drugs, pharma, pharmaceutical 

The discovery of an entirely new organ, the 80th to be discovered in the human body, could have serious implications for our collective understanding of cancer and a number of other diseases.

The organ is a system of fluid-filled channels that permeate the entire body and is thought to help to support the body, particularly being used as a shock absorber in the everyday movements of the body.

It has been dubbed the interstitium, and is supported by a thick network of collagen and elastin connective tissue.

One of the most interesting discoveries has been that the fluid from the organ flows into the lymphatic system. This means that should cancer cells find their way into organ, they could flood through the body by taking a ride through the lymphatic system.

This is exactly what was witnessed by Neil Theise, a pathologist at New York University School of Medicine, who was contacted by the team that made the original discovery. On further investigation, he found that cancer cells had made their way from their original tissue into the newly discovered channels.

The organ was discovered by chance after a team performed a routine endoscopy investigation, though using a new technology whereby a laser and sensor are used analyse the tissue.

On using this in the gastrointestinal tract of a patient, the doctors observed the previously unknown interconnected spaces in the body. The reason this organ had previously not been found is due to the way in which tissue is examined, whereby a slide is made out of tissue but, in the process, the fluid is lost – meaning that spaces were compressed and looked like layers of connective tissue.

“This fixation artifact of collapse has made a fluid-filled tissue type throughout the body appear solid in biopsy slides for decades, and our results correct for this to expand the anatomy of most tissues,” says co-senior author Theise. “This finding has potential to drive dramatic advances in medicine, including the possibility that the direct sampling of interstitial fluid may become a powerful diagnostic tool.”

Researchers now think that, as well as likely playing a role in cancer spread through the body, other diseases, such as liver disease and inflammatory disorders, may be connected to the newly discovered organ.

Ben Hargreaves

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