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New organ discovered

The syndicated news feed coupled to social media snow-balling recently generated the impression that a new organ had been discovered. This post will tell you why this claim is misleading and why this ancient organ is integral to MESHWORK. But first something of a preamble about the impact factor game in scientific publishing.

Scientific publishing is a business. Unfortunately widespread manipulation of impact factor through self-citation or citation stacking is rampant. This practice has in some ways been superseded through the use of mainstream and social media to popularise potentially impactful articles. This practice boosts a range of metrics which purport to quantify the significance of an article. We do not want to accuse the Nature publishing group of this practice, but their own metrics on this article are running hot.

meshwork blog new organ

The article in question is titled: Structure and Distribution of an Unrecognized Interstitium in Human Tissues – intriguing yes! We believe that a more accurate title would be: Visualisation of Human Interstitium using in vivo microscopy.

The authors claim:

In sum, we describe the anatomy and histology of a previously unrecognized, though widespread, macroscopic, fluid-filled space within and between tissues, a novel expansion and specification of the concept of the human interstitium.

The interstitium in question is well known to many histologists, functional anatomists, cellular biologists, a myriad of clinicians and biomedical researchers as well as a range of scientists thinking about the organism in terms of perception and action. A succession of International Fascia Research Congresses have been focused on this unrecognised interstitium, the first in 2007 established a broad definition:

…the soft tissue component of the connective tissue system that permeates the human body, forming a continuous, wholebody, three-dimensional matrix of structural support. It interpenetrates and surrounds all organs, muscles, bones, and nerve fibers, creating a unique environment for body systems functioning. The scope of our definition of and interest in fascia extends to all fibrous connective tissues, including aponeuroses, ligaments, tendons, retinaculae, joint capsules, organ and vessel tunics, the epineurium, the meninges, the periosteal, and all the endomysial and intermuscular fibers of the myofasciae.

Fascia is foundational to osteopathic thinking and practice. This perspective on fascia has influenced the development of MESHWORK and our evolving approach to integrated embodiment. To give you some perspective of the real vintage of the new interstitium, here is a quote from AT Still, the founder of osteopathic medicine:

Fascia is almost a network of nerves, cells and tubes, running to and from it; it is crossed and filled with, no doubt, millions of nerve centers and fibers. Its nerves are so abundant that no atom of flesh fails to get nerve and fluid supply there from. The cord throws out and supplies millions of nerves by which all organs and parts are supplied with the elements of motion, all to go and terminate in that great system, the fascia (AT Still 1899).

Fascia is encoded by ancient and highly conserved genes which are critical for body format and multi-scale architecture in all vertebrates. Fascia is integral to the function of lymphatics, wound healing and coordinated efficient movement. Fascia influences our experience of pain, proprioception and even interoception.

Fascia is one of the many meanings we have implied in the term MESHWORK. The embodied significance of fascia, this old organ and ancient meta-system, is explored in MESHWORK Fundamentals and incorporated into our other courses.