Researchers have made new discoveries about the interstices in the human body, and some say it's time to rewrite anatomy books.
A study published in Scientific Reports this week describes a liquid filled 3D mesh of collagen and elastin connective tissue that can be found throughout the body, in or near the lungs, skin, digestive tract, and arteries ,
It's hard to describe, and the New York University School of Medicine did it in several ways in a press release on Tuesday: a "series of rooms", a "moving fluid highway" and "a hitherto unknown property of the human Anatomy."
Images taken by transmission electron microscopy show blobs of collagen bundles and long, serpentine cells. It looks fluid – something that flows and flows like the ocean. It's similarly little explored.
This network could serve as a shock absorber for other parts of the body, the researchers said. It also appears to be a channel for fluids that invade the lymphatic system, meaning that it could spread disease through the body – also through metastasis in cancer.
"We never understood how this happens," said Dr. Neil Theise, a pathologist and professor at the New York University School of Medicine and senior author of the published work. "Now we have the ability, and when we figure out the mechanism, we can figure out how to handle it."
The work referred to this "widespread, macroscopic, fluid-filled space within and between tissues" as the interstitium (pronounced inter-STISH-um
Research began in 2014, when two endoscopists and gastroenterology experts, Petros Benias and David Carr-Locke, used a newer imaging technology to bypass a patient's bile duct at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan
Probe-based technology essentially enables physicians to examine living tissue microscopically in the body and in real-time, taking pictures of fluid-filled cavities they wanted to understand and bringing them to Dr. Thise.
Doctors and researchers have studied this tissue for many years, often by taking samples from the body he removed to examine them under a microscope microscope, but this process collapsed the latticework into something that appeared crisp and dense.
"A surgical preparation goes through several things when taken out of the body, it changes structurally, and all water is lost," Dr. Benias. "They miss much of the story there, and that's the problem."
But the newer technology revealed an interstitial network that was "extensive" and more than worthy of being considered as an organ, he added, calling it "a whole system that fits in between the vascular system and the lymphatic system. "
James M. Williams, director of the Human Anatomy Laboratory at Rush University, was not involved in the study, but he said the researchers' work and technology The interstitium was exciting and could change the way How doctors treat cancer and other diseases.
But the words "new organ" to the study were a distraction, he said.
"The only new organs made today are those that appear on stage and make music," Dr. Williams, adding that he looks forward to delving deeper into the research.
So Dr. Benias, who could lead more studies on the interstitium to break in cancer treatment. He added that the study involved clinicians, pathologists, bioengineers and others.
"Unfortunately, a lot of research takes place in a bubble," he said. "People miss the forest for the trees."