For generations the appendix was thought to have no purpose. But now, researchers say they have discovered the true function of this organ, and it is anything but redundant.
Researchers now say that the appendix acts as a safe house for good bacteria. The body uses this to essentially “reboot” the digestive system when one suffers from a bout of dysentery or cholera.
Conventional wisdom used to claim that this small pouch protruding from the first part of the large intestine was simply redundant or an evolutionary shadow of a once useful organ. For years doctors advised people have their appendix removed and in spite of it’s now-apparent use, most seem none the worse for having it removed.
Duke University Medical Centre in North Carolina researchers say that following a severe bout of cholera or dysentery, which can purge the gut of bacteria essential for digestion, the appendix acts as a reserve for good bacteria to emerge.
In spite of the findings, Professor Bill Parker says that this does not mean we should cling onto our appendices at all costs.
“It’s very important for people to understand that if their appendix gets inflamed, just because it has a function it does not mean they should try to keep it in,” he explained.
“So it’s sort of a fun thing that we’ve found, but we don’t want it to cause any harm, we don’t want people to say, ‘oh, my appendix has a function’, so I’m not going to go to the doctor, I’m going to try to hang onto it.”
Nicholas Vardaxis, an associate professor in the Department of Medical Sciences at RMIT University, says that the theory put forward by the Duke University team makes a lot of sense.