Every part located inside our body serves some purpose or function however small the contribution may be. So, is it possible that there can be some organs which are useless or do not have any function in the working of our body system? The evolution theory states that the early man lived in caves and fed on raw meat and uncooked food. Hence the internal organs inside the body were more suitable for breaking down the roughage and raw food morsels. Appendix too, according to many biologists, was the major organ contributing in the breakage of this roughage. But as the dietary habits changed, its function in the body became nil. So what is this appendix? Let’s find out.
The Appendix is located inside the large intestine and resembles a worm. It is a type of appendage, not above 4 inches in length and which protrudes out from the upper part of the large intestine. Many times due to reasons unknown, this organ becomes inflamed and if left untreated can burst and lead to fatal or critical consequences.
Although till couple of decades back, appendix was credited as the vestigial organ, the reminiscent of bygone caveman era, the scientists have recently found couple of functions and usage in connection with this organ. Now, it has been found that appendix plays a major role in fetus as well as in young adults. When the fetus is in its 11th week of development, endocrine cells are formed inside the appendix of the fetus of humans. These endocrine cells located inside the fetus appendix are now credited with the production of different biogenic amines and peptide hormones, type of compounds which are very useful in the control of various homeostatic or biological control mechanisms. One of the most significant factor is that no experiment can be carried out on animals as domestic animals do not carry appendix.
Today, the scientist also credit appendix as one of the major player of immune system. After a human baby is born, lymphoid tissue starts accumulating inside the appendix after short time and by the time the body reaches second or third decade it reaches the peak. Slowly afterwards, these tissues start decreasing and by the age of 60 years, there are no lymphoid tissues inside the appendix. However during the young age of development the appendix functions as the lymphoid organ and assists the maturation of a type of white blood cells- B lymphocytes. It also plays vital role in the creation of immunoglobulin A (IgA) antibodies. Appendix also creates molecules that direct the lymphocyte movements to different body locations. Its main function in the immune system is to directly expose WBCs to different antigens and foreign invaders that are located within gastrointestinal tract. Hence, according to some researchers, appendix is most probably involved in the suppression of potentially destructive humoral antibody responses thereby promoting immunity in the surrounding. It picks up the antigens from the intestinal content and reacts to them. This helps to build local immunity and enhances the immune response by controlling food, drug, microbial or viral antigens .
Some time back, during the abdominal operations, appendix was removed simultaneously considering it as useless for the body system and so as to eliminate the possibilities of appendicitis attack later in life. Nowadays, though appendix is not removed. Rather it is now kept as a spare organ to be used during the reconstructive surgery in case the urinary bladder needs to be removed. During the surgery intestinal section is formed as a substitute for the bladder and appendix is recreated as sphincter muscle to enable the patient continue to be continent (capacity to retain urine). It is also used nowadays as a makeshift substitute for ureter which is diseased and assists in the flow of urine from the kidneys into the bladder. Hence today, the surgeon use appendix as a back up organ in many surgical operations needing reconstruction.