The appendix is a narrow and close-ended tube, about 4 inches long located in the lower right area of the abdomen. The walls of the appendix are composed of the layers typically found in the intestine, but they are somewhat thicker and contain concentrated lymphoid tissue. Children have a longer appendix than adults, and the appendix normally shrinks throughout adult life.
Until recently, scientists believed that appendix has no function in the body. Removing the appendix from patients’ body didn’t seem to affect a person’s health. However, recent studies discovered possible health functions of appendix, and this article will try to shed a light on this topic.
The appendix function in humans
Until recently, scientists believed that human appendix has no known physiological function but probably represents a degenerated portion of the cecum that played a role in digestion only in our primitive ancestors. They believed that primitive men used barks of trees to feed and developed an extra organ, the appendix, to digest the sufficient fiber.
However, this standpoint was never proven. For years, the appendix was ascribed with very modest physiological purpose. There had been little or no evidence of its possible function or any other role of the appendix in animal research, too. This is because the appendix does not exist in domestic mammals. In animal kingdom, the appendix is found only in higher apes, wombats, some rodents and a few lower mammals.New findings
Scientific studies conducted at the Oklahoma State University revealed that the appendix plays a significant role in the development of fetus. Appendix starts to develop in 11th week of pregnancy, in the form of endocrine cells. These cells produce a number of biogenic amines and peptide hormones, essential for a range of biological control mechanisms.
Moreover, it seems that the appendix plays a significant role in the adult body, too. The primary function contributed to the appendix in adults is the immune function. As it seems, lymphoid tissue starts to build up in the appendix shortly after birth and reaches its peak in 20 or 30 years.
This way, the appendix functions as a lymphoid organ playing the significant role in production of B lymphocytes and immunoglobulin A antibodies. This lymphoid build up decreases after the age of 30, and it nearly completely disappears in the old age.
Another known function of the appendix is that it helps in production and preservation of good bacteria in the stomach. The appendix serves as a reservoir for good bacteria helping in the process of establishing the optimum bacterial flora in the gut.