University of Limerick professor's groundbreaking research identifies new area of science

University of Limerick professor's groundbreaking research identifies new area of science

Prof Calvin Coffey is professor of surgery at UL's graduate entry medical school Picture: Alan Place

A UNIVERSITY of Limerick professor has published groundbreaking research which has identified an emerging area of science having reclassified a part of the digestive system as an organ.

Prof Calvin Coffey’s research found that the mesentery, which connects the intestine and the abdomen, is an organ. For hundreds of years it had been seen as a fragmented structure made up separate parts.

The professor of surgery at UL’s graduate entry medical school (GEMS) published the research in one of the top medical journals, the Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

“In the paper, which has been peer reviewed and assessed, we are now saying we have an organ in the body which hasn’t been acknowledged as such to date,” Prof Coffey said.

He said that a better understanding and further study of the structure could lead to less invasive surgeries, fewer complications, faster patient recovery, and lower costs.

“When we approach it like every other organ…we can categorise abdominal disease in terms of this organ.”

According to Professor Coffey, the Foundation Chair of Surgery at UL’s Graduate Entry Medical School and University Hospitals Limerick, mesenteric science is its own specific field of medical study in the same way as gastroenterology, neurology and coloproctology.

“This is relevant universally as it affects all of us. Up to now there was no such field as mesenteric science. Now we have established anatomy and the structure. The next step is the function. If you understand the function you can identify abnormal function, and then you have disease. Put them all together and you have the field of mesenteric science…the basis for a whole new area of science.

“During the initial research, we noticed in particular that the mesentery, which connects the gut to the body, was one continuous organ. Up to that it was regarded as fragmented, present here, absent elsewhere and a very complex structure. The anatomic description that had been laid down over 100 years of anatomy was incorrect. This organ is far from fragmented and complex. It is simply one continuous structure,” he explained.

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