There are many weird and wonderful things lurking under our seemingly common and boring skin. From the sheer source of life itself, to our intricate waste management system, and yet we never really think about them until something goes wrong.
What about those parts of the body that are simply forgotten about and have no real purpose, like the appendix? Here we’re going to look at what exactly the appendix is, and if it actually has a job to do in the modern body.
The appendix is an organ located in the lower right of the torso. It can be found between the small and large intestine, also known as the cecum and ilium, It is around 10cm (3.9 inch) in length.
The purpose of this little wonder is actually unknown; it’s often thought that it’s an organ from a by-gone past in which its job was one of processing raw and dangerous foods.
Scientists, however, believe its purpose is still a relevant one. They say it acts as a source of “good bacteria” waiting in the winds until a serious illness hits and kills all the good bacteria in the system. These include things such as cholera and diarrhea allowing faster recovery, but is less and less necessary as we develop as a species.
The more impressive, and relevant role of the appendix, is actually found during early development. The appendix acts as a storage unit for endocrine cells, which are the cells responsible for an array of tasks as the fetus develops, and are a key part of our early life. The main job for these cells, among other things, is to produce certain hormones.
If there are any issues with this little wondrous organ, the appendix can happily be taken out without any notable side effects. I’m sure we all know many people who have had it removed.
The extraction is often required for an array of conditions and illnesses, most commonly, appendicitis. It is quite a routine surgery. If the symptoms are missed for some reason and not caught in time, they can cause huge issues for the patient. This includes the spread of infection to other areas of the abdomen, due to the organ literally bursting.
And now for some fun facts!
Did you know the Koala bear has a rather remarkable appendix? Although technically called the cecum, the organ is often greatly likened to the appendix. Its length is around 2 meters (6.56 ft.), which makes it one of the longest in the world. The main reason for the cecum is to process the tough Australian leaves which they mainly survive on.
What is the largest human appendix?
In Croatia, a 72 year-old patient somehow managed to disguise the fact that he possessed a whopping 26cm (10.2 in) long appendix. It was only discovered after his death when it was removed by surgeons in 2006.
The first record of appendicitis.
It’s thought that the first written record of a case of appendicitis was in 30 A.D. by Aretaeus of Cappadocia. Aretaeus actually documented that he drained an abscess from a patient’s appendix, but didn’t identify what the organ was. It would take until the 1400’s for the appendix to be properly documented during an authorized lawful dissection of a human.
So there we have it, the seemingly pointless and unnecessary organ we all possess, which is the butt of every joke about useless body parts, may actually have a job after all! That said, don’t let this worry you if you have had it removed – the risks outweigh the gains by far according to those in the know.