Doctors may have found secretive new organs in the center of your head

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Doctors may have found secretive new organs in the center of your head By Katherine J. Wu The New York Times Oct 20, at AM After millenniums of careful slicing and dicing, it might seem as though scientists have figured out human anatomy.

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A few dozen organs, a couple hundred bones and connective tissue to tie it all together. University of chicago prostate cancer treatment despite centuries of scrutiny, the body is still capable of surprising scientists.

Advertisement A team of researchers in the Netherlands has discovered what may be a set of previously unidentified organs: a pair of large salivary glands, lurking in the nook where the nasal cavity meets the throat.

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If the findings are confirmed, this hidden wellspring of spit could mark the first identification of its kind in about three centuries. Any modern anatomy book will show just three major types of salivary glands: one set near the ears, another below the jaw and another under the tongue.

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Matthijs Valstar, a surgeon and researcher at the Netherlands Cancer Institute and an author on the study, published last month in the journal Radiotherapy and Oncology. Advertisement The study was small, and examined a limited patient population, said Dr.

But the structures are important to researchers and doctors who deal in oncology. It lubricates the mouth, making it easier to speak and swallow.

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It ferries the tasty chemicals in food to the microscopic cells that can sense them. It even comes imbued with crude healing powers, waging war against germs and speeding the closure of wounds. Doctors take numerous precautions to avoid damaging the glands when administering radiation therapy, which can, with a single misdirected zap, permanently compromise the delicate tissues.

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While perusing a set of scans from a machine that could visualize tissues in high detail, the researchers noticed two unfamiliar structures dead center in the head: a duo of flat, spindly glands, a couple inches in length, draped discreetly over the tubes that connect the ears to the throat. Puzzled by the images, they dissected tissue from two cadavers and university of chicago prostate cancer treatment that the glands bore similarities to known salivary glands that sit below the tongue.

The new glands were also hooked up to large draining ducts — a hint that they were funneling fluid from one place to another.

Wouter Vogel, a radiation oncologist at the Netherlands Cancer Institute and an author on the study. The new find, Vogel said, might help explain why people who undergo radiation therapy for cancer of the head or neck so often end up with chronic dry mouth and swallowing problems.

They are more petite and tougher to find through imaging or scanning than their heftier cousins.

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Fitzhugh and Mowery were slightly more persuaded, but both called for more data. The original group examined by the researchers was made up entirely of people with prostate or urethral gland cancer, and included only one woman among subjects.

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The imaging techniques used in the study were also specifically tailored to hunt for tumorous growths in this patient population. It may be worth widening these experiments to include a new group of people, using different methods, she said.