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Science

New Research Suggests the Appendix Has a Purpose After All (qz.com) 133

The appendix is an organ thought to have gone the way of our wisdom teeth and body hair: At one point we all needed them, now people can get by just fine without them. However, it turns out, at least the appendix has some purpose in the body. From a report: Scientists, though, have never been certain what the appendix used to do -- and if it is still, in fact, useless. On Jan. 9, a team of researchers led by scientists at Midwestern University Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine published a review study proposing an answer: the appendix is a secondary immune function that both catalyzes immune cell responses and floods your gut with beneficial bacteria when they've been depleted. And it still plays that role, in a limited fashion, in human body function."We can function okay without it, but the appendix does provide some degree of immunity and beneficial bacteria,â Heather Smith, an anatomist and lead author of the paper said.
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New Research Suggests the Appendix Has a Purpose After All

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  • "News" (Score:5, Informative)

    by ledow ( 319597 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @04:26PM (#53650219) Homepage

    Not news.

    The appendix has MANY subtle jobs rather than one obvious one, that's why you can do without it.

    I've been telling people for 20+ years after reading it online that the appendix is PARTLY a store of stomach bacteria etc. to help reseed the stomach in the case of it being flushed during illness.

    People with appendices recover better from a bout of stomach flu and are less likely to get knock-on infections that those without. It's been in the medical literature for decades, at least, and been on this site at least twice I'm sure.

    It's also not the appendix's only job.

    This is not "news" at all.

    • Re:"News" (Score:5, Informative)

      by ledow ( 319597 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @04:29PM (#53650241) Homepage

      Yep. Wikipedia has citations going back to 1989 for that.

    • by CrashNBrn ( 1143981 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @04:44PM (#53650319)
      The Appendix: Slimy But Not Worthless [livescience.com] (2006)

      The appendix is a slimy, dead-end sac that hangs between the small and large intestines. It's about a half inch in diameter and three inches long. As quickly as 11 weeks after conception, the appendix starts making endocrine cells for the developing fetus. Endocrine cells secrete useful chemicals, such as hormones, and the appendix endocrine cells secrete amines and peptide hormones that help with biological checks and balances as the fetus grows.

      After birth, the appendix mainly helps the body stave off disease by serving as a lymphoid organ. Lymphoid organs, with their lymphoid tissue, make white blood cells and antibodies.

      The appendix, by virtue of its lymphoid tissue, is part of a complicated chain that makes B lymphocytes (one variety of white blood cell) and a class of antibodies known as immunoglobulin A antibodies. The appendix also produces certain chemicals that help direct the white blood cells to the parts of the body where they are needed the most.

      The dirty gut is a good training ground for young white blood cells. The appendix, with its sac routinely collecting and expelling foodstuffs, exposes the white blood cells to myriad bacteria, viruses and drugs passing through the gastrointestinal tract. This way, the white blood cells learn to fight potentially deadly bacteria, such as E.coli.

      The appendix's contribution to the body's white blood cell and antibody production reaches its peak when you are about 20 or 30 years old, then production falls off sharply. By age 60, the appendix serves very little active purpose. ...

      Emphasis mIne.

      • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )

        The appendix's contribution to the body's white blood cell and antibody production reaches its peak when you are about 20 or 30 years old, then production falls off sharply. By age 60, the appendix serves very little active purpose. ...

        I think for many, this sentence is probably more important than any other, depending upon if and when you had your appendix removed. Without supporting studies, the most you can surmise is that removal before 20 is bad compared to having one, and after 30 the effects rapidly become less noticeable. At 60, it is irrelevant.

    • Well like a lot of science News it probably is a bad summary of the newest findings. The big thing that happened recently in science is the realization on how integral to our health those bacterias are. So the appendix benefits from this finding shows that it is far more helpful than before.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The appendix is where the soul is.

      The people who have had theirs removed....those poor, poor bastards....well, you shouldn't trust them from then on.

    • Yeah... Mine went out on me some years back. Not to get TOO gross, but I have had lower GI issues ever since.

      Hell, maybe with this knowledge in mind maybe they can treat appendicitis and use a little bit of stem cells to restore a grown replacement.

    • Consider the source (Score:4, Informative)

      by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @06:37PM (#53650989)
      Midwestern University Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine
    • see the words "review study" in the article? But, yer, seems like a bit of academic enterprise.

    • People WITHOUT appendices are also much LESS likely to get Ulcerative Colitis, but much MORE likely to get its cousin, Crohns Disease... which also suggests there is something immune related to the organ. If you get an appendectomy before the age of 20, you are less likely to get either Inflammatory Bowel Disease!!

      http://www.badgut.org/informat... [badgut.org]

    • Yep it's also part of the body Endocrine System
    • Not news.

      The appendix has MANY subtle jobs rather than one obvious one, that's why you can do without it.

      It's not just the appendix. A lot of other organs that are thought "unnecessary" have a use. The gallbladder stores bile to help in digestion. The tonsils are designed to get infected first so you build up an immunity and the rest of you doesn't get sick. There is very little in the way of useless organs in the human body. It's interesting that the appendix and tonsils were both probably more useful back before antibiotics and modern hygiene. Today it probably doesn't make much difference but I would

  • Shocking. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    You mean to tell me that something attached to other organs, that has blood vessels, that has metabolizing and reproducing cells, that has multiple cell types, that has nerve endings, actually has a purpose? Gee whiz next thing you'll be telling me that the tailbone has no function and we'd be A-OK if instead of something hitting your tailbone it hits the end of your spinal cord directly instead.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Obviously we should stop researching the human body. After all, we've known everything there is to know about everything in it for hundreds of years now, like how the mesentery is a single contiguous organ or the existence of CNS lymphatic vessels or how some people have different ligaments and tendons than other people.

      Boy, if this research thing keeps up, next thing you know, someone might suggest that measuring the shit of Olympic athletes from 100 years ago might not actually be a good way to determine

    • by haruchai ( 17472 )

      Gee whiz next thing you'll be telling me that the tailbone has no function and we'd be A-OK if instead of something hitting your tailbone it hits the end of your spinal cord directly instead

      The spinal cord ends within the 1st two lumbar vetebrae so it's probably at least 6 in from your tailbone

  • Now tell me why men have nipples :)

    • Re:Mystery solved (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ledow ( 319597 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @04:40PM (#53650293) Homepage

      Because DNA of anything tends to carry legacies and evolve from previous similar things rather than just invent random stuff. Re-use is a large factor of DNA and it's complexity masks a lot of differences. That's why most diseases are NOT "just one dodgy gene".

      This is why two testicles look similar to two ovaries, and why there's two of each, and why both sexes have pubic hair and anus in the same place, and why the female pelvis - though differing dimensions - isn't fucking octagonal or something.

      And your gender is determined not in some magical early moment but quite late in foetal development, and not cast in stone as you're also surrounded by female hormones until birth.

      More strange is why certain birds have such vastly different coloured/shaped/sized male/females.

      • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @04:45PM (#53650321)

        ... as you're also surrounded by female hormones until birth.

        And the you get married and have a daughter and you're surrounded yet again until... the day... you die.

        [ P.S. I wouldn't have it any other way... ]

      • by aliquis ( 678370 )

        So when is the decision of XX vs XY chromosomes made?

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by ledow ( 319597 )

          If you think XX or XY determine gender alone, you're sadly mistaken.

          There's a geneticist sitting next to me who works in a London hosptial - what would you like to ask her?

        • XX vs XY chromosome (which determines the sex of humans) is determined by which spermatozoa attaches to the egg, and is therefore determined at conception, barring any genetic abnormality (such as Klinefelter syndrome). OP is, for some reason, confusing gender with sex, or possibly both with sexual characteristics, which are not quite the same thing (though all three are very strongly correlated).

        • The presence or absence of the Y chromosome (or specifically one very small part of it, the SRY gene) determines biological sex. Gender (the perception of which sex the self should be) is heavily correlated with biological sex, but it appears as though it can deviate from the typical pattern as a result of events during fetal development. Most of the gender-related stuff you see on places like tumblr these days is pure bullshit that has no scientific basis, but transgenderism is something that has been stud
      • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

        And your gender is determined not in some magical early moment but quite late in foetal development

        Um no, actually gender/sec (hint they are not really different) are determined the moment of conception and depend on what mix of chromosomes you get. Popular variations include X and Y, X and X, but sometimes things like X and X and Y happen.

        Its true that sex differentiated foetal development occurs late, that is to say sex specific structures emerge late.

      • "And your gender is determined not in some magical early moment but quite late in foetal development, and not cast in stone as you're also surrounded by female hormones until birth."

        Uh, you are aware that ovaries do produce Testosterone, albeit not as much as testes? What more, Androgens...I've lost your attention.

      • You seem to have different definitions of determined and implemented than I do, though there can be some confusion between sex and gender as well. Your sex is determined by your chromosomes. What you seem to be describing are physical sexual characteristics which are implemented about the time you seem to indicate. Now gender means different things to different people, and describe behaviors as well as physical characteristics.
    • XX, XY

      Women don't have Y traits, but men do have X traits.

    • Because women have nipples, and the additional genetic code required to completely remove nipples from males gives no survival benefit.

      • Not quite. Being beneficial is not what keeps things around. More often, being detrimental is what gets them removed.

        In times of extreme competition, beneficial traits can statistically outweigh the lack of that trait and become commonplace. (The lack of that trait is detrimental when competition is extremely high.)

        But evolution typically results in beneficial traits leading to specialization (literally, a new species), not the destruction of the old species. It's "why we still got monkeys".

        Beneficial t

    • by rwyoder ( 759998 )

      Now tell me why men have nipples :)

      The comedian Gallagher explained this years ago:
      "It's God's way of saying: 'You don't have them, but if you did, they'd be right there!'"

  • How is this news? (Score:5, Informative)

    by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @04:37PM (#53650275) Journal

    I've read about this role for the appendix for at least 5 years? At LEAST.

    Here's an early article I found on the subject https://blogs.scientificameric... [scientificamerican.com] - and if SciAm had it in 2012, it had to be relatively established information, they're not anywhere near cutting-edge reportage.

    And here's a Discover magazine thing saying the same thing in 2008: http://discovermagazine.com/20... [discovermagazine.com]

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Because new research is news ?

      Sure, we've known about gravity for a long time, but new research into gravity could be news.

      Not saying there was anything particularly new or interesting about the research, but new research on known topics isn't terrible.

      TL;DR - go fuck yourself all these nerd responses "I already knew that".

  • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @04:39PM (#53650287)
    for useful info.
  • You fucked up the quotes again.

  • At least 20 years I think... They could have saved a lot of money and just asked me instead of performing this crazy-ass study of something most doctors have known for decades. And I'm not even a doctor.

  • Lifespan? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cyberjock1980 ( 1131059 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @05:51PM (#53650737)

    So this makes me wonder if people without their Appendix have a different lifespan than those that keep it. I tried to google for the answer, but I came up short. Anyone know of any studies on this subject?

  • by Bigjeff5 ( 1143585 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @05:54PM (#53650757)

    If you thought you knew this before a study like this came out, then you're as bad as all the other gullible sheep out there, because there was not a large body of good evidence to point to to support that opinion.

    The study in the Qartz article is a review study, looking at hundreds of other studies. It's an extremely important kind of study for solidifying our understanding of how things work, and frankly in my opinion they often don't get enough attention because people think they know these things already. You did not know these things already. You had a couple of articles that you'd seen before that suggested maybe the appendix isn't as useless as doctors used to think, but you didn't have a body of evidence that you could point to to prove that fact. Now you do. That's the importance of the study.

    Of course, in typical fashion the SlashDot summary woefully misrepresents it as a study saying "Hey guys! I found this brand new thing that other people have already found! Check it out!", which of course that isn't what the study was doing at all.

  • Appendix is where the lawyers put all the escape clauses, in fine print too.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The appendectomy at one point was a standard surgical procedure performed on many not too long ago, on my parents generation.
    "To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail" attitude surgeons where cutting away rudimentary flesh left over from the absolutely positively proved human evolution, doing us all a favor.
    Maybe not so fast, because you do not fully understand something does not mean you can go and fuck around with it nilly willy.
    There are many examples of "accepted medical practice" is disprov

  • by Anonymous Coward

    body hair will help you detect insects around your skin so you can squish them. Biting insects are a vector for disease, so it is of great benefit to be able to detect them more quickly before they can bite. The great majority of people still live in environments with biting insects, so body hair is still of great biological utility.

  • stupid science; ruined the joke.
  • by Xenna ( 37238 ) on Thursday January 12, 2017 @01:14AM (#53652233)

    "Midwestern University Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine"

    Osteopathy is quack medicine!
    How dare you pollute Slashdot in this manner?

    There used to be standards here, or was that before Trump?

The aim of science is to seek the simplest explanations of complex facts. Seek simplicity and distrust it. -- Whitehead.

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