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In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers from New York University's School of Medicine revealed they’d found a new organ called the interstitium. And it’s nearly everywhere in your body – just below the skin's surface, surrounding arteries and veins, casing the fibrous tissue between muscles, and lining our digestive tracts, lungs and urinary systems.
Previously, scientists thought the layer was dense connective tissue; it wasn’t until the NYU researchers looked at tissue samples more closely with a probing technique that they realised it was technically an organ.
So what exactly is it?
Essentially it’s a network of fluid-filled compartments, containing interstitial fluid, strung together in a web of collagen and a flexible protein called elastin – which looks like a mesh. It sits in a layer outside of cells that lie beneath the skin and is also found the respiratory, urinary, and digestive systems.
"You're talking about the remaining extracellular fluid that's unaccounted for," said NYU professor Neil Theise. He explained that around 70% of the human body is made of water, and about two thirds of that is found in cells – that remaining third, it turns out, is interstitial fluid.
What does it do?
Interstitial fluid also makes up lymph – the fluid that moves through the body’s lymphatic system and supports immunity by fighting off infection. Therefore, it may have a role in the spread of diseases like cancer, and Theise believes the discovery of the organ could help researchers better understand how cancer and inflammatory diseases spread and how to prevent it.
Scientists have also speculated that the interstitium may act as a shock absorber, protecting other organs, muscles, and blood vessels from damage as they and the body move; that a better understanding of the interstitial network could help us understand why skin wrinkles as we age, why limbs get stiff, and how inflammatory diseases spread; and it's even possible that it could explain what acupuncture is or isn't doing within the body.
Anything else to know?
Yes – there’s a health test available that can check your interstitial fluid and use it to find imbalances within your body. It’s called an Electro Interstitial Scanning (EIS) System and it sends an electric current through the interstitial fluid and measures and interpreting resistance to the flow.
SL tried out the test with Dr Vidhi Patel at London’s Minerva Labs Clinic and it’s not at all as scary as it sounds. Firstly, it’s completely non-invasive and you can’t feel the electric current at all – you simply sit comfortably while the system scans your body. In which you can sit comfortably and at ease as the system scans your body. It’s able to detect the levels of vitamins and minerals; brain chemicals like serotonin dopamine; and hormones (Dr Patel was even able to tell exactly where we were in our menstrual cycle due to the scan detecting our current oestrogen levels).
Following the test, you’re then provided with a personalised nutrition and health advice plan to help restore any imbalances. For example, we weren’t, as we previously thought, deficient in vitamin D – but actually low in magnesium. We’d highly recommend it if you’re not feeling your best, but can’t work out why.
For more information about EIS scans, or to book an appointment with Dr Patel, visit MinervaLabs.com
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