Meet the mesentery — the newly identified human organ

Researchers have identified a new organ in the human digestive tract — the mesentery — that had been hiding in plain sight for years, according to a paper in The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology.

Previously, experts believed the organ — a double fold of the lining of the abdominal cavity that attaches the gut to the body — was made up of fragmented and separate structures. Now, they know it is one continuous organ.

"We are now saying we have an organ in the body which hasn't been acknowledged as such to date," said Dr. J. Calvin Coffey, a professor and researcher from University Hospital Limerick in Ireland. "The anatomic description that had been laid down over 100 years of anatomy was incorrect. This organ is far from fragmented and complex. It is simply one continuous structure."

The role the mesentery plays in the body is still not well understood.

"The next step is [to establish] the function," Dr. Coffey said. "If you understand the function you can identify abnormal function, and then you have disease. Put them together and you have the field of mesenteric science…the basis for a whole new area of science."

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