October 20, 2020

"A team of researchers in the Netherlands has discovered what may be a set of previously unidentified organs: a pair of large salivary glands..."

"... lurking in the nook where the nasal cavity meets the throat. If the findings are confirmed, this hidden wellspring of spit could mark the first identification of its kind in about three centuries. Any modern anatomy book will show just three major types of salivary glands: one set near the ears, another below the jaw and another under the tongue. 'Now, we think there is a fourth,' said Dr. Matthijs Valstar, a surgeon and researcher at the Netherlands Cancer Institute and an author on the study, published last month in the journal Radiotherapy and Oncology."

The NYT reports. I need to make a new tag for this: anatomy. I've got a lot of old posts that can take this tag, but I hadn't made it before.

Perhaps this new structure could have something to do with the mystery of the loss of the sense of smell, something I wish researchers were more interested in.

22 comments:

Ann Althouse said...

I added the tag retrospectively, but on closer examination, there were many posts with the word "anatomy" but not deserving the tag because:

1. It was mostly just a euphemism for sex organs.

2. It was used metaphorically — as in "Anatomy of a Murder."

Roy Jacobsen said...

There's something to be said for not adding tags willy-nilly, but this got me thinking about the possibilities for two more tags:
* Euphemisms for sex organs
* Anatomy of a metaphor

DrSquid said...

Doubtful, seems like I would have noticed them in the hundreds of times I operated in that area or in the thousands of CT scans/MRI's I've reviewed.

Hey, maybe it's like the G-spot which gained fame back in the early 80's. Like the myth of Santa Claus, that one worked for some people.

Cheryl said...

We live in a marvelous world, don't we? There are still discoveries to make.

William said...

But science …

Big Mike said...

@Althouse, cadmium poisoning, from when you lived in the toxic waste site known as Northern New Jersey.

Wince said...

...discovered what may be a set of previously unidentified organs: a pair of large salivary glands lurking in the nook where the nasal cavity meets the throat.

I propose they call them the "hock-a-loogitary" glands.

zipity said...


Reading this made me do a spit-take.

Not to worry, I'll make more.

rehajm said...

Seems like a big miss...

Greg The Class Traitor said...

But, but, "the Science is settled!!11!"

Joe Smith said...

It's called the prime rib and baked potato with all the fixin's gland.

I've known it was there all along...

Marc said...

Dr. Alvand Hassankhani, a radiologist at the University of Pennsylvania, said he was hesitant to label the structures “new organs.” In addition to the three pairs of known large salivary glands, some 1,000 minor salivary glands are sprinkled across the lining of the mouth and throat. They are more petite and tougher to find through imaging or scanning than their heftier cousins. It’s possible that the Dutch researchers just happened upon a better way to image a set of underappreciated minor glands, Dr. Hassankhani said.

What's in a name? Now other physicians and researchers will examine this question and debate the results of their examinations and, in a year or two, the Times might report further on their conclusions, provisional or otherwise; then again, maybe not.

Temujin said...

Ah, mmmph. That's where I left my water bladder.

Michael K said...

I never found this and I went to medical school in the days when we still did complete dissections. In fact, if a student failed to completely dissect his cadaver, an instructor would find a cute little hidden structure and put a pin through it to identify. Of course, the instructor would not dissect it out. I used to go around finishing a few dissections of my classmates.

stlcdr said...

As Greg the class traitor said, the science is settled (shouldn’t there be a trade mark after that?)

This is exactly why science is never settled: while this discovery might be unlikely a common thing, it’s possible that there is something that scientists have overlooked. At least, it may prompt a reaffirmation of what we currently know, or push scientists to question other assumptions.

If science is settled, why to scientists continue to research and investigate things that are already settled?

CStanley said...

Very unlikely that salivary glands would be involved in olfaction. The response that the glands have to appetizing smells is downstream from the sense of smell itself.

Marcus said...

Hard to believe that this is a new discovery, what with technology where it is today.

walter said...

"But, you may wonder, why is Althouse looking for a high-art representation of a naked man in the woods. It's a long story"
Oh? How long?

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

Personally I wish there was a medical advancement in artificial elbows. I have a hunch they’ll solve the nasal nerve problem before the elbow.

stephen cooper said...

Michael K at 3:15 ----- Fascinating.

Back in the mid-40s, there was a b/w romantic comedy where the opening scene - no spoiler alert, all of this is clear in the first ten minutes --- involves a woman (the female love interest) passing out on the first day of anatomy class while the instructor's substitute (the male love interest) begins to perform an autopsy on the corpse of a young overdose (I think) victim; his first words to her, as she recovers from her fainting fit, are exactly what you would expect. Not exactly the "meet/cute" we used to get in the Meg Ryan/Jennifer Aniston/Sandra Bullock vintage years, but it was what it was.

Believe it or not, Cary Grant was performing the autopsy. I leave it to you to figure out who the woman who passed out is ----

the cinematographer loved her. There have been tens of thousands of Hollywood movies, and there cannot be more than a handful where the cinematographer made the female love interest look, well, so lovely.

She made Cary Grant look like he was out of his league with her. I don't like to put anyone on a pedestal, but, from an artistic point of view, that is what the cinematographer did for that young actress.
Just saying.

Bob said...

"A team of researchers in the Netherlands has discovered what may be a set of previously unidentified organs: a pair of large salivary glands..."

This is what so annoys me about the contentiousness of diet, heart disease, cancer, COVID, and climate change, not to mention a host of other issues. So, assuming the finding is confirmed (a whole 'nuther can of worms), we've had these "large salivary glands" hanging around forever and no one seems to have noticed. How is that possible? We're suddenly a little smarter than we were before the finding was published. Maybe.

And people can claim without the least sense of irony that "the science is settled" in so many other spheres of public interest. The arrogance is breathtaking.

gadfly said...

So the first thing the 2019 novel coronavirus does is knock out all four sets of salivary glands and the olfactory gland as well. Who even knew that there was more than one salivary gland?