Scientists have discovered a new organ: the salivary glands, which were hidden deep in the upper part of the throat. No one thought that there would be anything other than microscopic organisms in this region behind the nose, however, this view turned out to be wrong. The length of the newly found glands is 3.9 centimeters. According to researchers, these glands are most likely involved in hydrating the upper part of the throat behind the nose and mouth.
The discovery was made by chance: Researchers at the Dutch Cancer Institute were studying prostate cancer, and this time doctors injected a radioactive indicator into the body. This indicator fits the protein PSMA very well, which is found in large amounts in prostate cancer cells.
The salivary glands are also rich in PSMA protein, therefore, they are detected when the indicator is entered. This is how these glands were found. Until now it was known that there are three large salivary glands: one under the tongue, one under the jaw and one behind the jaw. In addition, there may be thousands of microscopic salivary glands in the throat and mouth, said one of the institute’s researchers, Water Vogel.
To confirm the discovery, Vogel and his team tested 100 patients and found that all of them had newly discovered glands.
This finding may also be very important for the treatment of cancer. When using radiation therapy on the head and neck, doctors try to avoid irradiating the salivary glands, as in the event of an injury, the patient may experience problems with eating, swallowing, and talking. Consequently, since no one knew anything about the existence of these glands, nor did they try to avoid irradiating them.
“Our next step is to figure out how to prevent radiation to these glands. If we can do that, patients will have to experience fewer side effects than themselves,” Vogel said.