Medicine has been around for hundreds of years, everything to be known about the human body should already be discovered. However, is that really true? Could there possibly be some tissue or organ that we’ve haven’t yet uncovered? Some Dutch Scientists think they might have found a brand new organ that had been previously overlooked.
Before this discovery, these scientists weren’t purposely looking for new organs, they were originally scanning for tumorous growths. They were looking in the area where the nasal cavity and throat meet when they made the surprising discovery.
“People have three sets of large salivary glands, but not there,” said study author Wouter Vogel, “As far as we knew, the only salivary or mucous glands in the nasopharynx are microscopically small, and up to 1000 are evenly spread out throughout the mucosa. So, imagine our surprise when we found these.”
When they first found it, the scientists were skeptical at first. So they decided to scan the heads of another 100 people, and they all had a set. They decided to name the new body part: the Tubarial Glands.
“We thought it wasn’t possible to discover this in 2020,” said the study’s lead author Matthijs H. Valstar, “It’s important it’s replicated and it should be done with different series of patients. It’s important to have confirmation of new medical findings.”
Most organs can be seen using methods such as MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) or CT (Computerized Topography), yet it seems as the Tubarial Glands seem to be different. The only reason why the new body part was found in the first place was because the scientists were using a new type of scanning method called PSMA PET (Prostate-Specific Membrane Antigen imaging using Positron Emission Tomography).
The discovery of these salivary glands has more benefits then just for scientific research purposes. Many patients with head and neck cancer have to get radiotherapy in the area of the Tubarial Glands, and radiotherapy isn’t too friendly to salivary glands. “Our next step is to find out how we can best spare these new glands and in which patients,” said Vogel, “If we can do this, patients may experience less side effects which will benefit their overall quality of life after treatment.”
However, it’s still a matter of debate whether the Tubarial Glands are actually an undiscovered organ. “It is difficult to exclude that these might represent groups of minor salivary glands,” said Dr. Valerie Fitzhugh, the interim chair of pathology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
Fitzhugh also added how most of the patients were male and used more specific tests rather than standard ones. She says that examination of more women and healthier patients should produce more accurate results.
“Many great scientific discoveries come as a surprise — an incidental finding,” said Joy Reidenberg, a professor of anatomy at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, “As the famous Louis Pasteur once said: ‘Chance favors the prepared mind.’”
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