Astonishingly, there is a part of the human body that was still undiscovered by medical researchers, but the discovery was made by Netherland’s scientists – even after centuries of worldwide research.
The lead author of the study, Matthijs H. Valstar, a surgeon at the Netherlands Cancer Institute, said that scientists were a bit skeptical at first, but the discovery was thrilling. He also added that seeing a medical discovery in the year 2020 was really remarkable.
Until now, medical research had discovered three sets of major salivary glands on each side of the face, so the discovery of a new gland was a big surprise for the doctors.
It was an incidental finding as the medical researchers were performing routine scans of the neck and the head to find out the tumorous growths in the 100 individuals enrolled for the treatment of prostate cancer and cadaver histology. The scientists discovered a pair of glands hidden in the center of the head where the throat meets the nasal cavity. These glands have an average length of almost 1.5 inches and are located over a piece of cartilage called the torus tubarius. This structure supports the auditory tube’s entrance. Researchers named them as Tubarial Salivary Glands as they are located over torus tubarius.
PSMA PET/CT Reveals New Organ
One of the gland’s specific characteristics is that they cannot be seen with medical imaging methods like magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography, or ultrasounds. These hidden glands were identified when the doctors performed a PET/CT scan with a radiopharmaceutical based on PSMA, a biomarker for prostate cancer.
PSMA PET/CT is a highly sensitive type of imaging and is the only imaging technique that has the ability to show these, previously hidden, glands.
Source: Valstar et al., Radiotherapy and Oncology, 2020
It was initially under serious discussion if these newly discovered hidden glands were part of the salivary gland organ system or an entirely new organ. Then in a publication of Journal Radiotherapy and Oncology, it was published that these glands were new functional and anatomical entities.
This study was mainly focused on male patients due to enrollment for the treatment of prostate cancer. Dr. Valerie Fitzhugh, Pathologist at Rutgers University, says that this study should be conducted on more individuals, including a greater number of women and healthier persons. She further added that there is much more to discover about the human body.
It is claimed that these glands have tremendous medical implications. Radiotherapy can cause serious complications like difficulty swallowing and dry mouth if these anatomical bodies are exposed to radiation. Further studies are focused on the utilization of these previously overlooked glands and exploring the possibilities of improving the lives of cancer patients.