The decorous and genteel Mrs. Pax Arcana spent some quality time at Massachusetts General Hospital a few years ago on account of a tummy ache that turned out to be appendicitis. To correct the issue, doctors called in a rag-tag team of deep sea drillers to bore holes in her abdomen and extract the offending organ. They were then sent into outer space to blow up an asteroid.
For years we’ve been taught that the appendix was a vestigial organ left over from cavemen times, but recent research suggests otherwise. According to LiveScience, the appendix is actually a useful storage shed for bacteria. Because sometimes we need that. Like after a bad bout of the mud butt:
“Everybody likely knows at least one person who had to get their appendix taken out — slightly more than 1 in 20 people do — and they see there are no ill effects, and this suggests that you don’t need it,” Parker said.
However, 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.
Other research has shown that the appendix has survived multiple stages of evolution in many different animals, which suggests that it is in fact a useful piece of internal architecture. Scientists also say that appendicitis is actually the result of the industrial revolution, because modern sanitation means less work for our good bacteria, which then gets bored and turns against the appendix.
I think this research is great. It’s high time we stopped looking down our noses at supposed “vestigial” body parts like the appendix and my foot thumbs. You think your kidneys are so great? Let’s see you hang upside down from a tree branch with them, tough guy.
The Appendix: Useful and in Fact Promising [LiveScience]