Scientists Accidentally Discover New Organ In Human Head

by : Niamh Shackleton on : 21 Oct 2020 15:02
Scientists Accidentally Discover New Organ In Human HeadScientists Accidentally Discover New Organ In Human HeadPatrick J. Lynch, medical illustrator/Netherlands Cancer Institute

Scientists are forever discovering new things, with one of the most recent discoveries being a new organ inside the human head.

The new find, from researchers in the Netherlands, came by surprise, as they were actually studying prostate cancer at the time. While examining a set of CT and PET scans, those at the Netherlands Cancer Institute noticed a new set of previously unidentified organs.


The recent discovery is thought to be a set of large salivary glands (named tubarial salivary glands) located behind the nose; in the nook where the nasal cavity meets the throat, to be precise.

Netherlands Cancer Institute

But what’s their purpose? Apparently, the glands are there to ‘lubricate and moisten the area of the throat behind the nose and mouth’, The New York Times reports.

The discovery of the glands has come as a shock to many scientists, leaving them stumped as to how they went unnoticed for so long.


Dr. Wouter Vogel, a radiation oncologist at the Netherlands Cancer Institute, said:

People have three sets of large salivary glands, but not there. As far as we knew, the only salivary or mucous glands in the nasopharynx are microscopically small, and up to 1,000 are evenly spread out throughout the mucosa. So, imagine our surprise when we found these.

While the team of researchers want to do more research on the illusive glands, they are apparently quite difficult to get to. Dr.Vogel explained, ‘The location is not very accessible, and you need very sensitive imaging to detect it.’


Dr. Vogel added that the discovery of the glands could explain why many people who undergo radiotherapy of the head often suffer with dry mouth and swallowing issues afterwards. It’s believed a ‘single misdirected zap’ of radiotherapy could permanently damage the delicate tissues, since ‘nobody ever tried to spare them’, Dr Vogel said.

Scientists hope this discovery will help cancer patients experience less complications after receiving radiotherapy, as they believe many complications link to the tubarial salivary glands.

MRI scanMRI scanPexels

‘For most patients, it should technically be possible to avoid delivering radiation to this newly discovered location of the salivary gland system in the same way we try to spare known glands’, said Vogel.


He concluded that their ‘next step’ is to work out how to spare the glands during treatment, in the hope that ‘patients may experience less side effects, which will benefit their overall quality of life after treatment’.

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Niamh Shackleton

Niamh Shackleton is a pint sized person and journalist at UNILAD. After studying Multimedia Journalism at the University of Salford, she did a year at Caters News Agency as a features writer in Birmingham before deciding that Manchester is (arguably) one of the best places in the world, and therefore moved back up north. She's also UNILAD's unofficial crazy animal lady.

Topics: Science, biology, Cancer, Research


The New York Times and 1 other
  1. The New York Times

    Doctors May Have Found Secretive New Organs in the Center of Your Head

  2. Netherlands Cancer Institute

    Cancer researchers discover new salivary gland