Scientists Have (Re)Discovered a New Organ
Our Bodies Our Selves
It’s easy to believe we have a thorough understanding of our bodies. From an early age, we learn scientists have discovered every nook and cranny of our physical selves, the organ system, anatomy, parts of a cell, the human genome. We experience physical sensations, the daily routines of ingestion, digestion, elimination, the rhythms of wakefulness and sleep. We read about the relationship between sleep and health, or diet and health. It’s all figured out. Eat right, sleep well, exercise, socialize, manage stress. And yet, within the last few weeks, scientists have discovered not only what may be a new organ, but possibly the largest organ in the body.
You may have heard of interstitial fluid, the extracellular liquid that bathes cells and makes up a proportion of blood plasma. Maybe you know that the interstitial fluid is about 20% of our body weight and transports nutrients and chemical signals around the body and between organs to maintain normal function. A tissue system of sacs made of collagen and elastin acts as a reservoir for this fluid. Located underneath the outer layer of our skin within the fascia and deeper levels of skin, as well as surrounding all visceral organs, the interstitium was previously understood by scientists to be a dense wall of connective tissue. But new technologies have allowed scientists, to observe these sacs in vivo and what they’ve discovered is the interstitium is not only a conduit for interstitial fluid but may be the source of lymph, previously undiscovered immune cells, and potential biomarkers which could make it a powerful diagnostic tool. Simultaneously, this new understanding may explain how diseases like cancer spread throughout the body.
What Acupuncturists Have Known for 4,000 Years
Acupuncturists have been treating disease through manipulation of the interstitium for thousands of years. Treatment protocols and traditions from ancient texts, still practiced by acupuncturists today, describe how qi moves through our bodies via meridians. Acupuncturists use acupuncture points along these meridians to send qi from one point to another. Think of it as an electrical system where the acupuncture points are electrical towers, and the meridians are the electrical lines. In the January issue of the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine, scientists conceptualize qi as similar to interstitial fluid and the meridians as the interstitium. The new research into the interstitium takes this concept one step further. The lead author, Neil Theise, believes the tissue structures of the interstitium generate electricity as they move. This idea should be easy to prove with an acupuncture “point finder,” an instrument which measures the electrical resistance of points around the body. This recent research not only changes how we understand our bodies, but it also explains why acupuncture is a powerful treatment for a wide variety of diseases.
Jessica Crofts, L.Ac.
SOPHIA Natural Health Center