Thursday, April 5, 2018

Behold your "new organ," the iterstitium

Your body may have a new organ.

Well, not really "new" per se. You didn't just grow it and not notice, rather it's a part of the body being looked at in a whole new way.

Medical researchers at the New York University School of Medicine have written a paper full of new findings on what's called, "the interstitium." This is a "lattice work" made of collagen and elastin connective tissue that is found all over the body near the skin, arteries, and organs such as the lungs and the digestive tract. It is, according to the study, a “highway of moving fluid” and “a previously unknown feature of human anatomy.” The researchers term the interstitium as "an organ in its own right." In fact, it would be the body's largest organ.

An important finding in this study is that the interstitium is the means by which fluids enter the lymphatic system, thereby possibly spreading disease throughout the body and causing cancer to metastasize. Understanding how this happens and the interstitium's role in the process could aid in treating and preventing cancer or several other maladies.

Why am I writing about this? Several reasons.

I can't help but wonder if by understanding this "new organ" and what connection it may or may not have to illness, we might eventually see how transhuman applications can aid in...well, people leading better lives. Knowing the nuances of the interstitium may help us, just as a "for instance," better target nanotech treatments.

I'm also being rather fanciful and thinking about this from the perspective of a creative writer. The headlines proclaiming "new organ found" are somewhat misleading. But what if we really did grow a hitherto nonexistent organ? What would it be for? Why would it have developed? I like to muse that our modern lives have prompted the body to develop an organ that disperses a natural Xanax three times per day or more as needed.

Evolution or mutation? Is that, as a few out there would argue, the same thing?   

Lastly, the objections to the study interest me. Most of these disagreements are based not in the research but in calling the "fluid highway" a "new organ." "There are no new organs" one scientist countered, "except those for musicians on stage." Heh. He's a card.
So, what we have here is essentially a matter of rhetoric. Can you rightfully apply the phrase "new organ?" Does it fit the definition? It's an interdisciplinary argument with at least a few fingers in how language is used.

As much as I'm on Team Rhetoric and enjoy debating the nuances of word meaning and how we humans "code" the world around us, that interest only goes so far in this case. If someone you love is suffering from any form of malady, particularly one where diagnosis is maddeningly elusive, you likely don't give a rat's ass whether or not the term "organ" may be viably used. You just want the research to help make people better. To allow the quibble over terminology to distract from the research is self-defeating and mushyheaded.

Guess there's a practical side to me after all.

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