The Appendix: To be or not to be…
That still seems to be the question. We were always taught in school that the appendix was a vestigial organ that seemed to have no apparent purpose and should absolutely be removed if inflamed. This still seems to be the general consensus, but there are varying arguments that the appendix may influence health in a few different ways…
The appendix (or vermiform appendix; also cecal [or caecal] appendix; vermix; or vermiform process) is a finger-like, blind-ended tube connected to the cecum, from which it develops in the embryo. The cecum is a pouchlike structure of the colon, located at the junction of the small and the large intestines.
The term “vermiform” comes from Latin and means “worm-shaped.”
The appendix has been called a vestigial organ, but that interpretation may be changing.
The Appendix Protects Us From Germs And Protects Good Bacteria
The appendix most likely is there to protect us from bad germs by creating and protecting good germs, say scientists from Duke University Medical Center, USA. Most doctors and scientists have believed that the appendix was a redundant organ – serving no purpose at all.
You can read about this latest study in the Journal of Theoretical Biology.
After assessing several experiments and observations, the scientists believe that the good bacteria in the appendix that help our digestion can survive a bout of diarrhea that cleans out our gut, and appear to repopulate the gut.
The authors explained “While there is no smoking gun, the abundance of circumstantial evidence makes a strong case for the role of the appendix as a place where the good bacteria can live safe and undisturbed until they are needed.”
Appendix may have important function, new research suggests
The human appendix, a narrow pouch that projects off the cecum in the digestive system, has a notorious reputation for its tendency to become inflamed (appendicitis), often resulting in surgical removal. Although it is widely viewed as a vestigial organ with little known function, recent research suggests that the appendix may serve an important purpose. In particular, it may serve as a reservoir for beneficial gut bacteria. Several other mammal species also have an appendix, and studying how it evolved and functions in these species may shed light on this mysterious organ in humans.
The vermiform appendix may impact the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease
The potential benefits of a missing appendix
Misfolded α-synuclein is a pathological hallmark of Parkinson’s disease (PD). Killinger et al. now report that the human appendix contains an abundance of misfolded α-synuclein and that removal of the appendix decreased the risk of developing PD. The appendix of both PD cases and healthy individuals contained abnormally cleaved and aggregated forms of α-synuclein, analogous to those found in postmortem brain tissue from patients with PD. Furthermore, α-synuclein derived from the appendix seeded rapid aggregation of recombinant α-synuclein in vitro. In two large-scale epidemiological studies, the authors demonstrated that an appendectomy occurring decades prior reduced the risk of developing PD, suggesting that the appendix may be implicated in PD initiation.
The jury is apparently still out on the appendix, but this conversation leads us to ask, is there really anything in our body which doesn’t serve some meaningful purpose?
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