Researchers discover something new about human anatomy

People have been studying the human body for hundreds of years and you might think we know all there is to know about human anatomy today. Researchers have identified a previously unknown feature of human anatomy that has implications for the function of all organs, most tissue, and the mechanisms of many major diseases. The results of the research are being published in the March 27 issue of Scientific Reports.

The study was co-led by a pathologist form NYU School of Medicine. What the study has found is that layers of the body that were previously thought to be dense, connective tissues below the surface of the skin and lining the digestive tract, lungs, and urinary system along with the veins, arteries and fascia between the muscles are actually interconnected fluid-filled compartments. The spaces are supported by a mesh of strong collagen and flexible elastin connective tissue proteins.

The scientists think that type of tissue might act as a shock absorber to keep tissue from tearing as our bodies perform all the pumping and squeezing that goes with our daily functionality. Scientists involved in the study also say that this layer and its ability to move fluid all over the body might explain why cancer that invades that space is more likely to spread throughout the body.

The cells in that space change with age, which could contribute to skin wrinkling, limb stiffening, and the progression fibrotic, sclerotic, and inflammatory diseases. This study is the first to define the interstitium as an organ in its own right and as one of the largest in the body. This interstitial space is where much of the fluid in the human body resides.

One reason this discovery was so long in coming has to do with the fact that the medical field examines fixed tissue on microscope slides. The process of making the slides and treating the tissue with chemicals to highlight features drains away the fluid. When that fluid is removed, the connective protein meshwork around the once fluid filled compartments pancakes like a collapsed building. The team says that this discovery has the potential to advance medicine in the future.