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Your appendix is a slimy sac that hangs between your small and large intestines. It has long been thought of as a worthless evolutionary artifact, good for nothing except a potentially lethal case of inflammation. But now researchers suggest that your appendix is a lot more than a useless remnant.
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Not only was it recently proposed to actually possess a critical function, but scientists now find it appears in nature a lot more often than they had thought. And it’s possible some of this organ’s ancient uses could be recruited by physicians to help the human body fight disease more effectively.
Your appendix may serve as a vital safehouse where good bacteria can lie in wait until they are needed to repopulate the gut after a case of diarrhea. Past studies have also found the appendix can help make, direct and train white blood cells.
The appendix appears in nature much more often than previously acknowledged. It appears in Australian marsupials such as the wombat and in rats, lemmings, meadow voles, and other rodents, as well as humans and certain primates.
Live Science August 24, 2009
Journal of Evolutionary Biology August 12, 2009 [Epub Ahead of Print]