Scientists from the Netherlands may have discovered a new human organ situated inside the upper part of the throat while they were researching prostate cancer. The organ, a set of salivary glands, has been named “tubarial salivary glands.”
The human body was known to have three major sets of salivary glands — under the tongue, below the jaw and near the ears. The newly-discovered gland is placed where the nasal cavity and throat converge.
The organ could be lubricating and moistening the upper throat behind the nose and the mouth, according to the researchers in the journal Radiotherapy and Oncology. What makes the discovery even more interesting is that it was completely accidental.
The researchers at the Netherlands Cancer Institute were using a radioactive tracer that binds to the protein PSMA, which is high in people who have prostate cancer. The tracer also incidentally happened to detect the salivary gland tissue, which also has elevated levels of PSMA.
The team of researchers confirmed the finding after they imaged 100 patients of prostate cancer and even conducted the inspection on two cadavers.
The finding is important for cancer treatment when it comes to side effects. In head and neck cancers, the treatment involves using radiation in the area. Since the existence of the organ was hitherto unknown, the doctors didn’t avoid the area during radiation. The drying up of the salivary glands aggravated the side effects in the patients undergoing cancer treatment.
With this discovery, doctors can avoid the gland area to prevent some of the painful side effects of cancer treatment in patients.
Not too long ago, in 2018, scientists discovered the interstitium, a fluid-filled space present in the connective tissues.
The “organ” had long evaded scientists since it didn’t show up in microscopic slides.