What is the appendix for?

What is the appendix for?

With 8 centimeters in length by 4 to 8 millimeters in diameter, the appendix is ​​a finger-like segment that protrudes from the large intestinenear the point where it joins the small intestine or cecum.

The first description of this cylinder-shaped organ was made in 1521 by the Italian physician Jacopo Berengario from Carpi and the name “appendix” was coined by Andreas Vesalius more than twenty years later.

The function of this vestigial organ is of type immune, since it is part of the lymphatic system, a network of nodes connected with special vessels that transport lymph. This is a fluid rich in white blood cells that helps water and certain proteins return to the bloodstream.

Historically, many people have believed that the appendix serves little purpose within the body. When it catches your eye, it’s usually because you’ve been infected. But the reputation of the appendix is ​​improving. Researchers are learning that the appendix may play a key role in good health. And they are also developing less invasive ways to treat appendix infections.

The appendix is ​​attached to the first part of your large intestine. Its exact function is unclear. Some people believe that it is an evolutionary carryover that provides no health benefits.

This conventional wisdom has led to the widespread use of appendectomies to prevent and treat disease. For example, appendicitis occurs when the appendix becomes inflamed. If you are a man, your lifetime risk of appendicitis is 8.6%, researchers warn in the journal World Journal of Gastroenterology. If you are a woman, your lifetime risk is 6.7%. To treat it, doctors would historically perform an appendectomy to remove the appendix.

Many appendectomies are used to prevent rather than treat disease. According to the study published in World Journal of Gastroenterologythe rate of appendectomies is higher than the rate of appendicitis. Approximately 36 incidental appendectomies are required to prevent one case of appendicitis.

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In the 17th century the term “colic miserere” to refer to different abdominal conditions -among which acute appendicitis was included- and which had in common the difficulty of reaching a diagnosis and high mortality.

And it is that appendicitis can present health risks, but so can surgery. Some people wonder if preventative surgery is the best approach. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the appendix could have a purpose. It could be a haven for helpful bacteria in the body. These helpful bacteria may help promote good digestion and support the immune system.

For years, researchers have found that appendicitis increases when communities introduce sanitary water systems. Such modern conveniences can lead to fewer friendly organisms in our microbiota. This can lead to “biome depletion” in the body. In turn, this can cause the immune system to become overactive. It can leave the body vulnerable to certain disorders, such as appendicitis.

So, toa what it is widely viewed as a vestigial organ with little known functionthe 2017 study published in the journal Palevol Reports suggested that the appendix may serve an important purpose: to serve as a reservoir for beneficial gut bacteria. Studying and seeing how the appendix evolved in other mammals and functions in these species may shed light on this mysterious organ in humans. Thus, experts from the University of the Midwest of Arizona, studied the evolution of the appendix among mammals. The international team collected data on the presence or absence of the appendix and other gastrointestinal and environmental traits from 533 mammal species. They mapped the data into a phylogeny (gene tree) to trace how the appendix evolved through mammalian evolution, and to try to determine why some species have an appendix while others do not.

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And it is that, it is calculated, that throughout the evolution of mammals the appendix it has evolved more than thirty times.

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