March 28, 2018

Hiding in plain sight, a 'highway of moving fluid' in the human body

Scientists discover new organ spanning the ENTIRE human body that acts as a built-in 'shock absorber'
Researchers at NYU have identified a new organ they've dubbed the 'interstitium'.  The  interconnected compartments act like a ‘highway of moving fluid’ that sits beneath the top layer of the skin, lines the digestive tract, lungs and urinary systems, and surrounds the arteries, veins, and the fascia between muscle. And, they found it exists all throughout the body, acting like a shock absorber in all places where tissues are moved or subjected to force.


The interstitium is made up of both strong (collagen) and flexible (elastin) connective tissue proteins, with interstitial fluid moving throughout. The system drains into the lymphatic system, and is said to be the source of lymph, which is vital to the functioning of inflammation-causing immune cells. According to the team, the discovery of the fluid ‘highway’ could help to explain how cancer spreads in the body, and pave the way for new ways to detect and treat the disease.

So how did they find it?

It’s long remained undetected due to dependence the field’s dependence on the examination of fixed tissue on microscopic slides, according to the researchers.  In this process, the tissue is sliced into thin strips and dyed to highlight certain features. While this may make certain structures more apparent, it drains away any existing fluid.  The new study also found that doing this causes the walls of the interstitium to collapse, dramatically changing its appearance and apparent function.

‘This fixation artifact of collapse has made a fluid-filled tissue type throughout the body appear solid in biopsy slides for decades, and our results correct for this to expand the anatomy of most tissues,’ says co-senior author Neil Theise, MD, professor in the Department of Pathology at NYU Langone Health.

Using a newer technology called probe-based confocal laser encomicroscopy, the researchers were able to view living tissues instead of fixed ones. The instrument uses a camera probe to light up tissues, while sensors analyze the reflected patterns. While studying a patient’s bile duct to examine the spread of cancer, endoscopists and study co-authors Dr David Carr-Locke and Dr Petros Benias noticed a series of unusual interconnective cavities.
Posted by Jill Fallon at March 28, 2018 10:03 AM | Permalink