The Mesentery: A "New" Organ?

The intestines in our digestive tract is essentially a single long tube that is stuffed into our abdomen. The small intestine mostly zig-zags all over the place without a real pattern or organized placement. Knowing this, it's peculiar that we can move and twist and somehow the seemingly random placement of tubing doesn't kink or get tangled. Ever wonder about that?

The digestive tract is actually tethered to basically one main area on the front part of the spine. Imagine taking a rectangular bed sheet, laying a hose in the middle along the long side, and then folding the sheet in half so it's the same length but half the width. Now imagine taking the hose/sheet sling by the now combined long edge and hanging it from a hook on the wall. You'd have to bunch up the edge to make it work but the hose wouldn't get tangled. In our bodies, the sheet is called the Mesentery. It's a U-shaped tissue that the intestines hang in.

Because of all the food we have eaten, there are a lot of blood vessels sandwiched between the two sides of the Mesentery, which is awesome because they don't get tangled or compressed either. This tissue has been a part of our bodies for centuries, and it's possible that we would not survive long without it.

The reason the Mesentery has been all over the internet lately is because it was classically thought of as a simple layer of tissue. In the past several years some researchers have been challenging the traditional knowledge of what the books say it looks like. The result of their research is that there is a strong possibility that it meets the criteria to be labeled as an organ. So it hasn't been newly discovered, simply re-classified.

It's like having a shrub or bush in your yard for ages and then realizing that it's actually a small tree.

The reason why this all matters is because it's easier to get funding to research how organs affect health and disease. Learning more about how the Mesentery works could provide answers and solutions to some of our digestive health problems.

Interestingly, there's a problem: there doesn't seem to be a global governing body on organ classification to make the application to. Getting the classification changed could lie in simply informing scolars and educational facilities in hopes of it being included in textbooks one day.