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26 May 2022

Pioneering University of Limerick professor publishes new research

Pioneering University of Limerick professor publishes new research

Professor J Calvin Coffey. Picture: Alan Place

A PIONEERING University of Limerick professor has published new evidence on a new order in the abdomen. 

J Calvin Coffey is the Foundation Chair of Surgery at UL’s School of Medicine whose whose major discovery led to the reclassification of the mesentery as a new organ in 2016.

Professor Coffey has now published new research on the makeup and structure of the abdomen in a research paper published in the Nature Portfolio journal Communications Biology.

Professor Coffey's team has detailed the development and structure of the mesentery. In doing this, they uncovered a new order by which all contents of the abdomen are organised or arranged - or the “fundamental order of the abdomen”.

Professor Coffey explained: “Since 2016, Kevin Byrnes, Dara Walsh and members of the team been looking at the development and structure of the mesentery.

“We showed how the mesentery is a single and continuous organ in and on which all abdominal digestive organs develop and then remain connected to throughout life.

“These findings revealed a simplicity in the abdomen that was not apparent in conventional descriptions of anatomy."

In an international collaboration, Professor Coffey’s team used a variety of state of the art techniques to clarify how the mesentery develops and the shape it has in adults.

The conclusion of the work revealed that the organisation of the abdomen has a remarkably simple design. This design is summarised in a description called the ‘Mesenteric Model of Abdominal Anatomy’.

Professor Coffey outlined that a better understanding of the mesentery and its functions has already led to improvements in surgery and the new research builds on those advances. 

He said: “Patients are already benefiting from what we now call mesenteric-based approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of most abdominal conditions.

"The Mesenteric Model of Abdominal Anatomy – or the description of the order of the abdomen – is being incorporated into numerous reference curricula at this moment."

The Head of Department of Surgery, Consultant General and Colorectal Surgeon at UL Hospitals Group continued: “Regarding the future, it is being argued that we are seeing a paradigmatic shift from old to new order.

"Already, intriguing questions are emerging that we can call ‘legitimate or admissible’ in the strictest scientific sense. Science can approach numerous questions in a new light. 

"Clinicians can design diagnostic and treatment approaches based on a new foundation,” Professor Coffey concluded.

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