Scientists have discovered a new organ in our bodies that may play an important role in how tissues and other organs function, as well as in some diseases like cancer.
It's called the interstitium, and it's a series of connected, fluid-filled spaces under the skin as well as throughout the gut, lungs, blood vessels and muscles.
New York University-led researchers who described the interstitium in a new study were able to see it when they used a new laser endoscope that allowed them to see microscopic tissues in living people. It hadn't been seen before because the dried tissue samples researchers usually study don't show the fluid-filled spaces of the interstitium.
The study authors speculate on the functions the interstitium could be important for, including generating the collagen that supports cells, housing stem cells that repair damaged tissue, and conducting electrical signals.
They also say that because the fluid-filled spaces link tissues and organs, it could explain why some cancers spread more quickly than others.