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Understanding the Appendix

Posted by medliorator on December 17, 2007

biologists assumed that the tiny, worm-shaped organ is vestigial


In a December issue of The Journal of Theoretical Biology, a group of scientists announce they have solved the riddle of the appendix. The organ, they claim, is in reality a “safe house” for healthful bacteria — the stuff that makes our digestive system function. When our gut is ravaged by diseases like diarrhea and dysentery, the appendix quietly goes to work repopulating the gut with beneficial bacteria.


“In essence,” says William Parker, a chemist who co-wrote the paper, “after our system crashes, the appendix reboots it.” The theory may explain the location of the appendix: Positioned at the beginning of the colon, it often escapes being voided when a sick colon violently empties itself out the bottom.

The Appendix Rationale [NYT Magazine]

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