For decades, appendix was considered to have no purpose in the human body.
Nowadays however, researchers claim to have found the real function of this organ, and it’s definitely not useless.
According to researchers, the appendix functions as a safe house for good bacteria.
In cases when our digestive system suffers from a bout of cholera or bacteria, our body uses this to “reboot” it.
Conventional wisdom was stating that this small pouch which protrudes from the beginning part of the large intestine was redundant and simply an evolutionary remaining of a once useful organ.
Therefore, doctors were advising their patients to remove their appendices and this continues even today, although its apparent function is now known.
Cases of severe dysentery or cholera can cause clearing of the gut of bacteria crucial for digestion, and it is at this point when the reserve bacteria from the appendix emerge, as stated by the researchers from Duke University Medical Centre in North Carolina.
However, Professor Bill Parker states that despite this discovery, we shouldn’t cling on to the appendix at all costs.
He explains that people should remember that regardless of its now-well-known function, if there’s an inflammation on their appendix, they shouldn’t try to keep it. He continues to say that although their discovery is interesting, it’s not supposed to cause any harm.
The appendix theory of the Duke University team is supported by the associate professor in the Department of Medical Sciences at RMIT University, Nicholas Vardaxis, saying that it’s quite a logical one.
He states that appendix is a nice place for good bacteria to localize in, separated from anything else. But as human evolves higher on the evolutionary scale, appendix becomes smaller and less significant.
Nicholas Vardaxis argues that the appendix and the gut have the same normal flora bacteria, so our body has lost all of those specialized bacteria, which is why appendix doesn’t have the function of a safe house anymore.
He suggests that it’s a trace of something from previous incarnations.
The discovery about the function of appendix came from a research on the koala appendices. They have extremely long appendices, as oppose to the short appendices in people.
This helps in their diet which is almost entirely consisted of eucalyptus leaves.
Regardless of the fact that koala’s appendix is similar to that of human’s, Vardaxis says that we won’t probably see shrinking of the koala’s organ any time soon.
This is due to the specific diet of koalas, so if we notice they start consuming other things but eucalyptus leaves, then over hundreds of thousands of years of time, their appendix will surely shrink too.
Nicholas Vardaxis argues that the appendix in humans has shrank as a result of the changes in our diet which happened thousands of years ago.
Therefore, those species which have large appendices now, might have the same destiny as humans, if their diet dramatically changes.
The result will be gradual shrinking of their appendix.
Professor Vardaxis further explains that koalas, as humans, can have their appendices removed in cases of appendicitis.