Is the appendix just an unimportant little blind alley in the bowel to be thrown in the bucket when you develop appendicitis?
Well, maybe not, according to research from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne. It was already known that there are a lot of immune cells in that part of the intestine, which act as a front line of defence.
The question was what else they might be doing there and how important they are?
In experiments in mice, they found that when these immune cells were removed, the animal’s intestinal health was affected.
For example it looked as though the area near where the appendix is, was a reservoir of healthy gut bacteria which could be used tore-colonise the bowel if the normal bacteria in the bowel were harmed or depleted.
So this tiny little sack has got the potential to restore normal bowel function during times of abnormal function.
The good news is that surgeons believe that many cases of appendicitis can be treated with antibiotics, avoiding the need for throwing this handy organ into the bucket.