by Sarah Sui
Imagine one of your organs bursting in your body, and then having to get it cut off. Sounds like a nightmare? Not exactly. Appendicitis is a rather common medical condition involving the inflammation of the appendix. which results in it bursting. The solution to this issue would be to get it removed. You may not realize it, but quite a few people around you have probably gone through this procedure. In the U.S alone, around 300,000 people face this issue each year. So does it actually maintain a function if so many people don’t have it? From what scientists understand currently, people without an appendix are missing out on a party! A party in their appendix… (the good kind)
Charles Darwin’s Theory Proven False
As humans evolve through time, we adapt to our surroundings and create changes as needed. English naturalist, geologist and biologist, Charles Darwin theorized that the appendix found in human bodies (lower right abdomen) became useless through evolution. In his work of 1859, On the Origin of Species, and published in 1871, The Descent of Man, he referred to the appendix as a “vestige”( “a part or organ of an organism that has become reduced or functionless in the course of evolution” ). He thought the original purpose of it was to help digest a largely herbivorous diet. But due to modernization, the increased protein & man-made diet has replaced the need for this function. He also theorized that the appendix was an evolutionary remain of what was once known as a cecum. In recent years, further research suggests that Darwin’s theory surrounding this organ was false. Instead, it may play an important role in our bodies.
The True Function of the Appendix
A study done by researchers at Duke University Medical Center proposed that the appendix serves as a storehouse for beneficial bacteria. They can stay there until they’re needed to repopulate the gut after this bacteria has been flushed out (ie.diarrhea). Not to worry though for those who have had their appendix removed or simply aren’t born with one. Heather F. Smith, PhD, associate professor at Midwestern University Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine says that people who have had their appendix removed may take “slightly longer to recover from illness, especially those in which the beneficial gut bacteria has been flushed out of the body.”
Of course, there is still extensive research that needs to be done on this topic before anyone can truly conclude the functions of this infamous organ. But what we do know is that this is definitely not a useless organ. There is more to the appendix than we had thought!
I personally know many people who have undergone this surgery. It scared me at first to learn that the appendix has a normal function. But seeing that this won’t affect their health very much is comforting. Now that a function of the appendix has been discovered, it is another step closer to finding out what we can do to prevent appendicitis.