March 4, 2024

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Turns out, the least known organ in your body is important: That’s the thymus gland

Turns out, the least known organ in your body is important: That’s the thymus gland

When dining out at a fancy restaurant, you may see the name Sweetbreads on the menu. But did you know that you also have a thymus gland in your body? And this organ, according to scientific research, seems to be more important than we always thought.

What is sweet bread?

The sweetbread dish contains organic meat that comes from small mammals. Usually it comes to veal or lamb. But this organ is also present in humans near the sternum and heart. In the 1960s, scientists discovered the function of the last unknown organ in the human body. The thymus gland is most active in infancy and produces immune cells against bacteria and viruses. And the body benefits from this until later in life. After that active phase, the thymus gland, which is also called the thymus in medical terminology, withers.

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What does sweet bread do?

And especially in your childhood, you make subtle use of the thymus gland in your body. But what the organ does after it grows is a matter of debate among scientists. Many of them have assumed for years that the role of sweets is over after your childhood. And that the shrunken member has no function after that.

But a group of American researchers took a closer look at the thymus gland and came to a different conclusion. In this study, more than 1,000 participants had their thymus gland surgically removed. Five years after surgery, the risk of cancer and death appears to have increased. Additionally, without the thymus gland, the body produces fewer T cells, which weaken the immune system. Anyway, this shows that having a thymus gland is important for our health, as well as later in life. Whether the member is not only present, but also still active should become clear after further research.

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What is thymus cancer?

Thus the thymus gland in your body stimulates the immune system and reduces the risk of diseases and disorders. On the other hand, a tumor can develop in the same organ. This cancer is rare and is estimated to occur 60 to 100 times a year. It is difficult to detect thymus cancer at an early stage because the thymus gland is small and difficult to see.

Only when the tumor continues to grow can symptoms appear. Shortness of breath, pneumonia, persistent chest pain, coughing a lot, fatigue, weight loss, and loss of appetite may indicate thymus cancer. In addition, the autoimmune disease myasthenia gravis, a condition in which muscle strength is significantly reduced, is often associated with it. But because thymus cancer is so rare, not much is known about the causes and treatments.

(Source: Cooley, Scientias, University Medical Center Groningen, RTL News, National Geographic, Harvard Gazette, Thuisarts. photo: shutterstock)