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Researchers from Netherlands discover new organ in throat

Rida Shaikh

Livescience reported that scientists from the Netherlands have discovered a new organ in the throat. The new organ is a set of salivary glands set deep in the upper part of the throat. This discovery was reportedly an ‘accident’ and was made when a group of scientists and researchers at the Netherlands Cancer Institute was studying prostate cancer by using a combination of CT scans and positron emission tomography (PET).

After examining about 100 or somewhat patients, the presence of these glands was affirmed and the study was published in the journal Radiotherapy and Oncology.

Wouter Vogel is the study’s co-author and an oncologist at the Netherlands Cancer Institute. He said, “This discovery might be potentially effective in treating cancer.”

Earlier it was thought that the nasopharynx region behind the nose only hosted microscopic, diffuse salivary glands. But the new ‘accidental’ discovery ascertained that the newly discovered glands are located there and are about 1.5 inches in length on an average.

The glands are called tubarial salivary glands because they are located over a piece of cartilage called the torus tubarius. The glands probably lubricate and moisten the upper throat behind the nose and mouth.

The said discovery was unexpected and spontaneous. The researchers and scientists at the Netherlands Cancer Institute were studying prostate cancer by using a combination of CT scans and PET scans called PSMA PET-CT. In PSMA PET-CT, the doctors inject a radioactive tracer into the patient. This tracer binds itself well to the protein PSMA, which is elevated in prostate cancer cells.

As per Wouter Vogel, there were only three known salivary glands until now. These glands included the one under the tongue, the one under the jaw and the one at the back of the jaw, behind the cheek. Wouter Vogel said, “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.”

Wouter Vogel said that this discovery may be effective in treating cancer. It will be important in the treatment of cancer as the doctors using radiation on the head and neck will try to about irradiating the salivary glands because any damage to these glands can have a serious impact on the quality of life. He said, “Patients may have trouble eating, swallowing or speaking, which can be a real burden. Our next step is to find out how we can best spare these new glands and in which patients. If we can do this, patients may experience less side effects, which will benefit their overall quality of life after treatment.”


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