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August 24, 2009

Fun With Vestigial Organs

Earlier this month, an article from the New York Times related an important discovery about the usefulness of the spleen in human immunity. Wouldn't you know, somebody has found a good reason for us to have an appendix, as well.

Parker and his colleagues recently suggested that the appendix still served as a vital safehouse where good bacteria could lie in wait until they were needed to repopulate the gut after a nasty case of diarrhea. Past studies had also found the appendix can help make, direct and train white blood cells.

Homm. Another organ helpful for immunity. We can live without a certain amount of lymphatic tissue as well, but if the whole system was removed, we'd be dead in 48 hours.

So, what causes appendicitis? Apparently, it's boredom. Appendicitis, a potentially deadly inflammation of the appendix, is not due to a faulty appendix, but rather to cultural changes associated with industrialized society and improved sanitation, Parker said. If we could just figure how to safely keep that little guy busy, we may be able to stave off all kinds of problems, including autoimmune diseases.

For information of more vestigial organs found in nature, check out LiveScience.

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Posted by linda at August 24, 2009 5:21 PM

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