Interstitium: Scientists Say They May Have Discovered a New Human Organ

Photo: Endoscope

(From NBC News)

Scientists said in a study published Tuesday that they may have stumbled on a previously unknown organ — one of the biggest in the human body and one that could significantly advance our understanding of cancer and many other diseases.

The research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, suggests that a network of dense connective tissues and fluid-filled compartments called the interstitium is a full-fledged organ — that is, a group of tissues with a unique structure performing a specialized task, like the heart or the liver.

More than two-thirds of the human body is water, most of that contained inside cells. Much of the rest, about 20 percent of the fluid in the body, is “interstitial,” a Latin word combining “inter,” or “between,” and “sistere,” or “to place” — literally, “between the other places.”

That fluid and the tissues connecting them are called the interstitium (pronounced “inter-STISH-um”), and they’re found throughout the body, both just below the skin and in the digestive, respiratory and urinary systems.

Understanding the interstitium could be particularly significant in diagnosing and tracking the spread of cancers and other diseases that spread throughout the body.

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