Doctors discover new 1.5 inches-long organ in throat
26 October 2020
Researchers at the Netherlands Cancer Institute have found a hither-to unidentified set of salivary glands in the upper part of the throat. The organ is 1.5 inches in length on average, according to the journal Radiotherapy and Oncology.
Doctors said the discovery would help in cancer treatment since damage to these glands can impact the quality of life due to radiation impact.
"Histology and 3D reconstruction confirmed the presence of PSMA-expressing, predominantly mucous glands with multiple draining ducts, predominantly near the torus tubarius," the journal said in its report.
"The human body contains a pair of previously overlooked and clinically relevant macroscopic salivary gland locations," the study said while proposing to name it tubarial glands.
Researchers accidentally detected the organ when they were using a combination of CT scans and positron emission tomography (PET) scans called PSMA PET-CT to study prostate cancer. The doctors had injected a radioactive "tracer" into the patient.
The researchers studied images of 100 patients and found that all of them had the glands.
Until now, there were three known large salivary glands in humans - one under the tongue, one under the jaw and one at the back of the jaw, behind the cheek.
“Beyond those, perhaps a thousand microscopic salivary glands are scattered throughout the mucosal tissue of the throat and mouth. So, imagine our surprise when we found these,” study co-author and Netherlands Cancer Institute radiation oncologist Wouter Vogel said in a statement.
"Our next step is to find out how we can best spare these new glands and in which patients," Vogel said. "If we can do this, patients may experience less side effects, which will benefit their overall quality of life after treatment."
"Sparing these glands in patients receiving RT may provide an opportunity to improve their quality of life," it said.
The doctors said the new discovery would help in cancer treatment since damage to these glands can impact the quality of life due to radiation impact.