This is the interstitium, the formal name for the widespread, fluid-filled spaces between and inside the tissues of the body.
Scientists in the United States - including a gynecologist from Greece - have announced that they have discovered a new organ, unknown until now, which even seems to play a role in various common conditions such as cancer.
This could explain how the interconnected fluids spread cancer cells throughout the human body, but understanding the interstitium could also help researchers fight the disease. And it may have an important function during fibrosis, or the stiffening of certain tissues. However Theise's research reportedly shows that space is actually a scaffolding of collagen that's filled with water. The doctors collaborated with New York University pathologist Dr. Neil Theise to further explore the structure and function of the newly identified organ. They speculate that the tissues-dubbed the "interstitium"-may act as "shock absorbers", allowing our organs to swell and compress as we go about our business of breathing, eating, and living in general".
The fluid-filled compartments are lined by unusual cells, the researchers note.
Essentially, it's believed that the interstitium is helping cancerous cells travel directly to the lymphatic system, which carries lymph fluid directly to the heart and is a key part of our circulatory system.
They found that the "strings" of the net contained collagen, a protein which acts as a kind of scaffolding around the pockets of fluid. The discovery of the instrument was done with the help of a confocal laser intrasung microscope, which "sees" the living tissues.
LiveScience notes these discoveries are also reflected in a 2011 study, which signaled the existence of a network of dark fibers in association with several cases of bile duct cancer, but didn't offer an explanation as to what it was.
For their latest studies, the team used a freezing technique to prepare surgically obtained tissue specimens from cancer patients in such a way that the interstitial compartments weren't disrupted.
According to National Geographic, the NYU researchers stumbled upon the newly identified organ purely by chance, while investigating a bile duct for cancer spread.
Normally, scientists slice thin samples of tissue and then dye them so they can be seen better. He adds that the concept of a fluid-filled matrix is not "earth-shattering", and that sectioning and imaging unfixed tissue as the authors did, which could tear and create artifacts, presents limitations. Theise explained that it is already known that cancer first spreads to the outermost part of the organ or the skin before it starts to spread.
This is the second time in as many years humans have learned details about a new organ.
Dr. Petros Constantinos Benias, co-lead author of the study, an assistant professor at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell Health said that this study opens up new avenues of research in diagnostics as well as in deeper understanding of disease pathology, inflammation and cancer.
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