Photo: Valstar, et. Al./Radiotherapy, & Oncology
Scientists have found a previously undiscovered organ deep inside the human head, where the nasal passages meet the back of the throat. Yes, the news is an extraordinary-sounding surprise, but the researchers say the discovery is likely a fourth pair of salivary glands—not a second brain or transistor radio. If the findings are confirmed, this will be the first discovery of a new human organ in around 300 years.
Keen-eyed viewers may recognize that specific location as the major place where COVID-19 swabs are taken, but the new study from the Netherlands came from a different angle, so to speak. While studying patient scans, the scientists identified the almost-hidden fourth salivary glands as the cause of a rough side effect from radiology treatment of cancers. They explain:
“[W]e observed that PSMA PET/CT also depicted an unknown structure in the nasopharynx, similar to the known major salivary glands. To our knowledge, this structure did not fit prior anatomical descriptions. This could have clinical relevance in oncology, because high-dose radiotherapy (RT) to salivary glands during treatment for head and neck cancer (HNC) or brain metastasis is known to cause damage.”