Sunday, October 07, 2007

Scientists May Have Found Appendix’s Purpose

The function of the appendix seems related to the massive amount of bacteria populating the human digestive system, according to the study in the Journal of Theoretical Biology. There are more bacteria than human cells in the typical body. Most of it is good and helps digest food.

But sometimes the flora of bacteria in the intestines die or are purged. Diseases such as cholera or amoebic dysentery would clear the gut of useful bacteria. The appendix’s job is to reboot the digestive system in that case.

The appendix “acts as a good safe house for bacteria,” said Duke surgery professor Bill Parker, a study co-author.

Also, the worm-shaped organ outgrowth acts like a bacteria factory, cultivating the good germs, Parker said.
Interesting. I wonder how it determines which are the good bacteria and which are the bad?

So, why is it no big deal if you have your appendix removed?
That use is not needed in a modern industrialized society, Parker said. If a person’s gut flora dies, they can usually repopulate it easily with germs they pick up from other people, he said.
I don't think I want to know how exactly we get those germs from other people.


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