Appendix not useless, according to a news release from Duke University, 8 Oct 2007. William Parker and Randal Bollinger of Duke University Medical Centre have been studying the way bacteria interact with the large bowel, where large numbers of useful bacteria live and help with normal digestive processes and help keep out harmful bacteria. They found that useful bacteria live in aggregates called biofilms, which also contain immune system molecules and secretions from the bowel. If the bowel becomes inflamed with a diarrhoea-causing disease the biofilms can be flushed out and need to be re-formed for the bowel to return to normal health and function. But where can new useful bacteria come from? Parker and Bollinger concluded from their studies that the appendix acts as a “safe house” for good bacteria during a bout of diarrhoea as its location makes it “relatively difficult for anything to enter it as the contents of the bowels are emptied.” Parker commented: “Diseases causing severe diarrhoea are endemic in countries without modern health and sanitation practices, which often results in the entire contents of the bowels, including the biofilms, being flushed from the body. Once the bowel contents have left the body, the good bacteria hidden away in the appendix can emerge and repopulate the lining of the intestine before more harmful bacteria can take up residence. In industrialized societies with modern medical care and sanitation practices, the maintenance of a reserve of beneficial bacteria may not be necessary. This is consistent with the observation that removing the appendix in modern societies has no discernable negative effects.”

Editorial Comment: The conclusion that the appendix has a function is no surprise to us. It has long been known that the appendix contains clumps of immune system cells, and like much of the immune system, these are largest and most active early in life, when the body is establishing which microbes can safely live in the bowel. It certainly makes sense that the appendix continues to have a role in maintaining the population of good bacteria and provides a back-up when the system is disturbed. The idea of the appendix being a useless leftover is an example of the theory of evolution being a hindrance to science, rather than a help. There are true vestigial organs wherever creatures have lost wings, legs, etc, but they are always the sad result of degeneration. (Ref. vestigial, intestine, normal flora)

Evidence News 28 Nov 2007