New Organ Discovered in the Body, and It May Be Responsible for Spreading Cancer

Understanding cancer has always been a challenge. After years of research, doctors still have not pinpointed exactly how the disease spreads through our bodies. But now, one team of researchers believe they’ve defined a new organ that could finally explain how cancer is able to spread from one part of the body to another (check out page 4 for its connection to cancer).

Doctors think they’ve discovered the biggest organ in our bodies

Doctor Using Ultrasound Scan On Abdomen Of Senior Male Patient

Believe it or not, scientists found a new organ in our bodies. | AndreyPopov/Getty Images

Up until now, our skin was considered the largest of the body’s organs. But in early 2018, a new study found a potential organ that scientists were always aware of but never knew much about. It was previously regarded as “empty space” in the body — but its role could actually be much more important.

Next: Doctors didn’t fully understand the organ’s function. 

It’s commonly referred to as ‘interstitial space’

This space may have an important purpose. | Philippe Merle/AFP/Getty Images

The body has several “spaces” in between different tissues and tubules. Scientists refer to the space as the interstitium, and it is essentially empty fluid space that lies between different tissues throughout the body. “Initially, we were just thinking it was an interesting tissue,” Dr. Neil Theise, professor of pathology at NYU Langone Health in New York, told CNN. Theise was involved in a study done about the empty space and is a firm believer that its role is far greater than what researchers once thought.

Next: Here’s why researchers now think it’s an organ. 

But now they’re saying it fits into the category of ‘organs’

Older at doctor

Doctors are trying to figure out what these tissues do. | Monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

CNN reported that during his team’s study, Theise and the researchers realized that the interstitial tissue actually functions  the same way the body’s other organs do: It is a unitary structure with a unitary function. And the structure and function of the interstitium is the same wherever you look at it. This only adds to the assumption that it’s an organ. Researchers are now piecing together that if this is an organ, it might play a significant role in how cancer is spread through the body.

Next: The new findings could explain how this organ spreads cancer. 

And it could be what spreads cancer

Scientist looking into a microscope

Could this be how cancer spreads?| Dan Kitwood/Getty Images/Cancer Research UK)

It is understood that cancer cells can break free from a tumor and travel to other parts of the body. This is known as metastasis. But if you look up how this happens, the information is a bit foggy. Up until now, it’s been assumed that cancers can only spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or lymphatic system. But how do cancer cells get to the bloodstream? With this new organ, researchers now believe that the way these cancer cells enter the different systems is actually through this interstitial fluid. This could help researchers find out new answers about a cure.

Next: Cancer is only one of the diseases it could spread. 

This new organ could help doctors figure out the spread of other diseases

This could be the key to figuring out how diseases spread in the body. | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images/Cancer Research UK

Aside from just cancer, understanding the interstitium could help doctors figure out how other diseases travel so quickly through the body. Since the whole interstitium is interconnected, it could be the reason disease travels so quickly. As it turns out, something seemingly minimal could hold the answers for a lot of new bodily understanding.

Next: Not every expert is convinced of the findings. 

But not all doctors are on board

Doctor and patient in an office

Not all doctors are on board with the theory. | daizuoxin/iStock/Getty Images

Some doctors have their doubts about Theise’s findings, according to CNN. The study is just one of many others that will still need to be done. It’s hard to redesign the entire process of cancer research based on the findings of only one study. But Theise said that once you see it, you can’t unsee it. He wants to get other experts on board and start looking at cancer from this new perspective.

Next: Plenty of research is still needed to draw final conclusions. 

There is still much more information to be discovered

researcher working in biology lab

This could lay the groundwork for some serious breakthroughs. | Gorodenkoff/iStock/Getty Images

Dr. Petros Constantinos Benias was another lead author of Theise’s study. He wrote in a written statement that although the findings are new, they can change the way researchers look into cancer treatment. He said the findings have, “Laid the groundwork for how this may begin to explain cancer spread, inflammation, and scarring of connective tissue.” He also said the research opens up a new pathway for which to study cancer progression.

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