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New and old body parts

Students may scoff at people during and before William Harvey's era thinking hearts were perforated, but the modern equivalent still happens. We may, as a world of people, be able to inventory DNA, but we're still refining the basic functions - or existence - of parts of anatomy.

I've had two encounters with this this year. The first was learning that appendixes* almost certainly do have a function: as a reservoir of healthy gut bacteria, for repopulation after digestive ailments. Appendixes have been thought so useless that my mother (to give an example) was given an involuntary one, while the surgeon was operating in that general area anyways.

More recently, reading about the anatomy of lactation, I learned that until 2005, lactiferous ducts were thought to dilate into the "lactiferous sinus", which stored breastmilk; but further study showed that the lactiferous sinus does not exist. (Encountered on Wikipedia, source is here.)

If a previously-assumed part of the body can be shown to not exist in 2005 and the use of another to only be hypothesized in 2012, then people of the seventeenth century - and earlier ones - certainly have nothing to be ashamed of, living when they did, in guessing at other plausible explanations for the function of the heart and the movement of blood.

* I keep wanting to type appendices, but then you'll think I'm talking about books.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 21st, 2012 08:09 pm (UTC)
I'm still getting used to the changes in Dinosaurs since I was in school.
Sep. 21st, 2012 10:46 pm (UTC)
The full prosection of the gross anatomy of the clitoris is another item to add to that list.

I doubt that one in a hundred medical students ever heard the vague rumours that the glans (the visible external part) is barely one percent of that organ; and the full extent of its gross anatomy was only published this year.

So all current undergraduate textbooks of human anatomy are, in terms of the functional anatomy of female sexual physiology, somewhat reminiscent of cardiovascular physiology in William Harvey's early childhood.

Sep. 22nd, 2012 10:33 am (UTC)
I was told in AP Biology (in 1993), that at the time, if "the abdominal cavity is opened for any reason, surgeons must, by law, also remove the appendix".

Whether this was actually true, I have not been able to confirm. But I know that I was aghast at the idea.

My feeling was pretty much that if it was there, it probably was there for a reason. :)
Sep. 23rd, 2012 10:50 pm (UTC)
All I know is that mine almost killed me. I'm glad it's out now! I don't thinks it's a bad idea in places like Japan where they're removed when people are infants so they can heal without a scar. Mine's huge thanks to it being emergency surgery.
Sep. 26th, 2012 01:06 pm (UTC)
Ironically, I'm considering a tonsillectomy. While they claim they are not completely necessary either, they do serve a pretty important purpose. :)

Still, 10 throat/and or ear infections in one year is not cool. So, I might just give in.
Sep. 26th, 2012 06:18 pm (UTC)
How miserable! Poor you.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )