For generations the appendix was thought to have no purpose. But now, researchers say they have discovered the true function of this organ, and it is anything but redundant.
Researchers now say that the appendix acts as a safe house for good bacteria.
The body uses this to essentially “reboot” the digestive system when one suffers from a bout of dysentery or cholera.
Duke University Medical Centre in North Carolina researchers say that following a severe bout of cholera or dysentery, which can purge the gut of bacteria essential for digestion, the appendix acts as a reserve for good bacteria to emerge.
“It’s very important for people to understand that if their appendix gets inflamed, just because it has a function it does not mean they should try to keep it in,” he explained.
“So it’s sort of a fun thing that we’ve found, but we don’t want it to cause any harm, we don’t want people to say, ‘oh, my appendix has a function’, so I’m not going to go to the doctor, I’m going to try to hang onto it.”
Scientists were led to the discovery by examining the appendices of koalas. Unlike the short human variety, the koala is famous for having an extremely long appendix. This aids in their diet which is almost exclusively made up of eucalyptus leaves.
Nicholas Vardaxis, an associate professor in the Department of Medical Sciences at RMIT University, says that the theory put forward by the Duke University team makes a lot of sense.
“As an idea it’s an attractive one, that perhaps it would be a nice place for these little bacteria to localize in, a little cul-de-sac away from everything else,” he weighed in.
By James Achisa, PBS; images via ABC; h/t to Barbara Miller