A study published today in the journal Nature reveals a feature of human anatomy, hitherto unknown, that affects the function of all organs, most tissues and the mechanisms of major diseases.
Researchers at the University of New York School of Medicine have discovered that the connective tissue beneath the surface of the skin that lines the digestive tract, lungs, urinary systems, arteries and veins is formed by interconnected compartments filled with fluid , and not a dense layer, as was believed until now.
These spaces, explained the researchers, supported by a network of strong connective tissue proteins (collagen), can act as shock absorbers that prevent tissues from tearing as organs, muscles and vessels are compressed, pumped and beat.
For researchers, this finding would explain why the cancer that invades this part of the body tends to spread further, being a layer formed by a fluid in motion.
]In addition, the study revealed that “the cells that reside in that space and the collagen bundles that they cover change with age and can contribute to skin wrinkles, limb stiffness and the progression of sclerotic and inflammatory diseases” .
The authors explained that for a long time “it was known that more than half of the fluid in the body resides inside cells” and that the remaining fluid is “interstitial”. However, they added that his study is “the first to define the interstice as an organ in itself and as one of the largest in the body.”
The principal researcher of the study, professor of the Department of Pathology at the School of Medicine, Neil Theise, pointed out that this finding had not occurred before because of the tendency to examine fixed tissue under a microscope. “Scientists prepare the tissue for examination by treating it with chemicals in order to highlight the main features, but this treatment drains any fluid,” he observed.
In contrast, in this study, the researchers used a state-of-the-art technology called “confocal laser endomicroscopy”, based on probes, which offers a microscopic view of living tissues. “This discovery has the potential to drive major advances in medicine, including the possibility of interstitial fluid becoming a powerful diagnostic tool,” Theise said.