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Useless no more: Appendix may boost immune system, COM researcher finds

Heather Smith, PhD, of MWU/AZCOM sheds light on the evolution of the appendix across different mammals.

Most people think of an appendix as a useless organ that serves no apparent purpose, but occasionally needs to be removed when it’s inflamed and threatening to rupture. This common opinion may change soon, suggests research by Heather F. Smith, PhD, associate professor at the Midwestern University/Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine in Glendale.

Dr. Smith and her research team studied the evolution of the appendix in different mammals, gathering data from 533 species, according to Midwestern’s statement. Their analysis, published in the journal Comptes Rendus Palevol, notes that species with an appendix have more immune tissue in their cecum, which is a pouch located at the intersection of the small and large intestines. This suggests that the appendix may help boost the immune system and may even be a place where beneficial gut bacteria thrives.

To learn more, check out the original study in Comptes Rendus Palevol and read Midwestern’s statement and Time magazine’s coverage of the study.

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