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August 2, 2021
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According to The Independent, scientists in the Netherlands have found a potential new organ in the human throat. According to researchers, these salivary glands are likely used in the lubrication of the upper throat. A study was published in the journal Radiotherapy and Oncology by a team of researchers, including those from the Netherland Cancer Institute (NCI).
The study said that this organ is a set of “previously overlooked bilateral macroscopic salivary glands” which the scientists named “tubarial glands”. The researchers examined at least one hundred patients to confirm their findings and every patient had these glands.
According to Sky News, the glands were found while scientists were using PSMA PET-CT, which is a combination of Computerized Tomography scans (CT scans) and Positron Emission Tomography scans (PET scans). This allows doctors to inject a radioactive tracer into the patient which binds to the protein PSMA, which is elevated in prostate cancer cells. This technique is also good at detecting salivary gland tissues which are also high in the PSMA protein.
Doctors providing radiotherapy for the treatment of cancers in the head and neck try to avoid the previously known salivary glands, as damaging them could make eating, speaking, and swallowing very difficult and painful for patients. However, the newly found glands were being hit with radiation because doctors were not aware of their existence, which could explain patients reporting unexplained side effects.
This new finding can be used to spare these glands in future patients which would improve their experience and their quality of life. Dr. Wouter V. Vogel of the NCI, one of the researchers involved in the study, emphasized the next step is to ascertain how these glands can be spared from radiation. Vogel told the New York Times these glands had remained undetected because of their location at the base of the human skull. He also said these glands are big enough to be seen by the eye but are still small enough to only be detected using very sensitive imaging techniques.
ARTICLE: JOSEPH MODICA
SCIENCE/HEALTH EDITOR: KYLE SMITH