London - A new human organ has been classified by scientists, rewriting 100 years of medical understanding.
The mesentery – a fold of the peritoneum membrane which attaches the stomach, small intestine, pancreas and other organs to the abdomen, was long thought to be made up of separate structures.
But a study has shown it is one continuous organ. Researchers hope the reclassification will aid better understanding and treatment of abdominal and digestive diseases.
Academics at University Hospital Limerick in Ireland used complex microscopy to show the mesentery is not a fragmented structure but an organ in its own right.
Professor Calvin Coffey, who made the discovery, said: "We are now saying we have an organ in the body which hasn’t been acknowledged as such to date.
"The anatomic description that had been laid down over 100 years of anatomy was incorrect. This organ is far from fragmented and complex. It is simply one continuous structure."
The finding has led to Gray’s Anatomy, one of the most widely-used series of medical textbooks in the world, being updated.
Professor Coffey added: "This affects all of us. Up to now there was no such field as mesenteric science. Now we have established anatomy and the structure.
"The next step is the function... you can identify abnormal function, and then you have disease. Put them all together and you have the basis for a whole new area of science."
From this year, medical students around the world will learn about the mesentery as a continuous organ.