The “new” glands are located in the area of the nasal cavity and throat.
Science Direct / Courtesy
Although we might think that in the XXI century we know all about how our body works and its structure, a revelation by Dutch researchers has shown that “everything” is rather “almost everything”.
Scientists from the Department of Oncology and Head and Neck Surgery at the Netherlands Cancer Institute discovered a new organ in the human body, located exactly in the throat.
What is it and what is it for?
They are macroscopic nasopharyngeal salivary glands, that is, they are located in the skull, in the area of the nasal cavity and throat. While conducting research on prostate cancer, scientists discovered the presence of these organs, which propose to call it “tubal glands”, by scanning the heads and necks of 100 people, and by dissecting a female and a male corpse.
After making their observations using detailed CT scans, the experts concluded that “the human body contains a pair of clinically relevant and previously overlooked macroscopic salivary gland locations“Which, for now, they have called tubal glands.
In their research, the scientists explain that the salivary gland system that is known so far is composed of three major glands and about 1,000 minor glands distributed in the aerodigestive tract, that is, in the mouth, nose, throat, vocal cords and part of the esophagus and trachea.
During radiation therapy treatment for head and neck cancer, this glandular system is considered at risk, so doctors should make sure to preserve it whenever possible.
The role of the “new” tubal glands
These “new” glands would have a relevant function during cancer treatment, since they believe that the identification of these “previously unnoticed salivary gland structures in the posterior nasopharynx, could help explain and avoid radiation-induced side effects”.
The tubal glands, they explain, have the function of moisturizing and lubricating the nasopharynx and oropharynxTherefore, preserving them during cancer treatment “could provide an opportunity to prevent the side effects of radiotherapy and better maintain the quality of life of patients.” These sufferers often experience eating, digesting, and speaking problems, as well as an increased risk of tooth decay and oral infections.
Before the possible discussion about whether these glands are indeed organs themselves or rather are part of the salivary gland system, the researchers argue that the definition of organs indicates “a type of tissue with a defined shape and structure that performs specific tasks”, characteristics they found in their observations.
But, “regardless of the classification of the tubal glands as a conglomerate of minor glands, a major gland, a separate organ, or as a new part of an organ system, the tubal glands are clinically relevant macroscopic locations of glandular tissueThey affirm.