Professor J Calvin Coffey found the mesentery is one, continuous structure
A University of Limerick (UL) professor has discovered a new human organ.
The mesentery connects the intestine to the abdomen - and was considered a fragmented structure made up of multiple separate parts for hundreds of years.
But research by Professor J Calvin Coffey found the mesentery is one, continuous structure.
It has since been reclassified as part of the digestive system as an organ.
In a review published in the November issue of one of The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Prof Coffey outlined the evidence for categorising the mesentery as an organ.
"In the paper, which has been peer reviewed and assessed, we are now saying we have an organ in the body which hasn't been acknowledged as such to date," Prof Coffey said.
"When we approach it like every other organ, we can categorise abdominal disease in terms of this organ".
Better understanding and further scientific study of the mesentery could lead to less invasive surgeries, fewer complications, faster patient recovery and lower overall costs.
According to Prof Coffey, mesenteric science is its own specific field of medical study in the same way as gastroenterology, neurology and coloproctology.
"This is relevant universally as it 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.
"If you understand the function you can identify abnormal function, and then you have disease. Put them all together and you have the field of mesenteric science…the basis for a whole new area of science".
Prof Coffey explained his findings: "During the initial research, we noticed in particular that the mesentery, which connects the gut to the body, was one continuous organ.
"Up to that it was regarded as fragmented, present here, absent elsewhere and a very complex structure.
"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 University of Limerick says medical students around the world are, from this year, learning about the mesentery as a continuous organ.
Prof Coffey's research has prompted an update in one of the world's best-known medical textbooks, 'Gray's Anatomy'.