What if humans had no appendix

Inside of us there are some things that we do not know very well what they are for, not because of misinformation but because of practicality. In particular, there are two that usually appear in the minds of all people when we talk about useless organs (or similar): wisdom teeth and appendix. Not only do they not seem to be of any use, but they also cause quite a few problems, to the point that they must be removed in some cases.

Teeth aside, would anything really happen if we didn't have an appendix? It is often said to be as useless as the hind leg bones that some whales have, as a reminder of ancient terrestrial ancestors. In fact, one in 10,000 people is born without an appendix, according to a report in the journal 'Case Reports in Surgery'. This small, worm-shaped sac that protrudes from the cecum (at the beginning of the large intestine) in some people becomes inflamed and causes the dreaded appendicitis, a disease that does not have to cause serious problems if caught in time, but that in some cases it is fatal.

There are more than 10 million cases of appendicitis each year, and up to 50,000 people die annually from this problem.

As theorized Charles Darwin In its day, the appendix was to be a remnant of the ancestors who ate leaves and helped us digest food. As we evolved as a species to depend on a diet in which food was easier to digest, the appendix would no longer fulfill a function (according to Darwin), like the coccyx at the base of the spine would be a remnant of the bones from the queue of distant ancestors. However, if Darwin had known what scientists now know about the appendix, he probably would have bought his words, 'Live Science' reports.

In 2007, a group of scientists discovered that the appendix can serve as a repository for useful gut bacteria. When diseases remove good and bad microbes from the gut, good bacteria can emerge from the safe harbor of the appendix to help restore the intestine to a healthy state. Additionally, the appendix has a high concentration of lymphoid tissue, which generates white blood cells (lymphocytes) that support the immune system and fight invading germs, suggesting that the appendix may help produce, direct, and train these immune cells. .

If the appendix suddenly disappeared, many more people would die from infections

Investigating when the appendix evolved in the animal kingdom, they discovered that it had existed in mammals for at least 80 million years, much longer than expected to have been a 'holdover'. Furthermore, they also discovered that the appendix evolved independently at least 32 times among mammals, in species as diverse as orangutans, platypus, porcupines, manatees, beavers or koalas.

"When we inquire among species that have appendagesWe didn't find any common ground related to diet, how social they are, or where they lived. However, all species that have one have a concentration of immune tissue in it, so a common functionality could be assumed, "explained research sources. So what would happen if you waved a magic wand and the appendix disappeared from suddenly?

If it did not exist, it would have to be invented

If it disappeared into a hunter-gatherer society "and a scientist from a spaceship observed what was happening, he would see many more people dying of infectious diseases," they explained. "Then for a long time, maybe millions of years, something similar to an appendix that would fulfill its same functions would evolve slowly and again, so that people don't die so much. "If it disappeared in an agricultural society after people had settled in cities, more people would also die, because according to scientists they would live in crowded areas and, with poor sanitation, diseases would spread. they would spread more.

If the appendix disappeared in a modern society after the Industrial RevolutionWhile people would have antibiotics that could help them survive, they would not have the storehouse of helpful bacteria to help them recover from potentially harmful infections, which would mean that fecal transplants might have to be performed. Doesn't sound very nice, does it? But this increasingly common procedure transfers the stool of healthy people into the intestines of patients with intestinal problems, through a tube or capsule that is placed in the throat or in the butt. The idea is that the transplant brings healthy bacteria into the guts invaded by harmful microbes.

The advantage of a world without an appendix? The disappearance of appendicitis, of course. Worldwide, there are more than 10 million cases of appendicitis each year, and up to 50,000 people die annually due to this problem. Appendectomies are one of the most frequently performed abdominal surgeries, but if we did not have an appendix, obviously, there would be no hospitalizations or deaths from appendicitis. However, previous work has suggested that this inflammation may be due to cultural changes linked to industrialized society and improved sanitation. The idea is that these improvements left our immune system with very little work, which opens up the possibility of it going crazy without an appendix.

But what is clear is that a world without an appendix would lead humanity to fight germs more often, and the idea that the appendix is ​​a useless organ is an idea that should belong to the past, to the times of Darwin.