Scientists Accidentally Discover New Organ in Human Body

Scientists Accidentally Discover New Organ in Human Body
Credit: Netherlands Cancer Institute

In a serendipitous scientific breakthrough, researchers at the Netherlands Cancer Institute stumbled upon a new organ in the human body while conducting prostate cancer studies. This discovery, made during a routine scan using radioactive glucose to highlight tumors, inadvertently revealed a previously unknown set of salivary glands located behind the nasal cavity, aptly named the “tubarial salivary glands.”

The discovery came about as the radioactive glucose used in the scans bound to a protein associated with prostate cancer, known as PSMA, which is also present in salivary glands. While examining the scan results, the researchers noticed unexpected glowing areas in the head that, upon further investigation, turned out to be these new glands. Positioned behind the nose near the throat, these glands are thought to help lubricate the upper throat, facilitating swallowing and speech.

To verify their findings, the team conducted further examinations on a sample of 100 patients and two cadavers, all of which presented these new glands, confirming their common presence in humans. This finding is significant not just for anatomical science but also for medical treatments, especially in the context of radiotherapy for head and neck cancers, where knowing the precise location of salivary glands is crucial to avoiding side effects like dry mouth.

Historically, this area was targeted during radiotherapy, which might have unknowingly damaged these glands, leading to post-treatment complications. With this new knowledge, medical professionals can avoid this region to prevent potential side effects, improving patient care following head and neck cancer treatments.

This discovery not only adds a fascinating new chapter to human anatomy but also exemplifies the importance of serendipity in scientific research, showcasing how studies aimed at one purpose can yield unexpected but vital new knowledge. The identification of the tubarial salivary glands opens new avenues for research and clinical care, enhancing our understanding of the human body and improving medical outcomes.