Scientists discover new organ in the throat ‘tubarial salivary glands’

Scientists in the Netherlands have discovered a potential new organ: a set of salivary glands set deep in the upper part of the throat.

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Researchers at the Netherlands Cancer Institute have identified a set of salivary glands deep in the upper part of the throat and have named them ‘tubarial salivary glands’

tubarial salivary glands
Image credit: The Netherlands Cancer Institute

According to a study published in the journal Radiotherapy and Oncology, Dutch scientists researchers confirmed the presence of the glands after examining at least 100 patients. The discovery may be important for cancer treatment.

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The discovery may be important for cancer treatment. So far, this nasopharynx region — behind the nose — was not thought to host anything but microscopic, diffuse, salivary glands.

The newly discovered glands are about 1.5 inches (3.9 centimeters) in length on average and are located over a piece of cartilage called the torus tubarius, Livescience reported. According to the researchers, the glands probably lubricate and moisten the upper throat behind the nose and mouth.

“Beyond those, perhaps a thousand microscopic salivary glands are scattered throughout the mucosal tissue of the throat and mouth. So, imagine our surprise when we found these,” study co-author and Netherlands Cancer Institute radiation oncologist Wouter Vogel said in a statement.

The discovery was accidental. Researchers at the Netherlands Cancer Institute were using a combination of CT scans and positron emission tomography (PET) scans called PSMA PET-CT to study prostate cancer. In PSMA PET-CT scanning, doctors inject a radioactive “tracer” into the patient. This tracer binds well to the protein PSMA, which is elevated in prostate cancer cells. Clinical trials have found that PSMA PET-CT scanning is better than conventional imaging at detecting metastasized prostate cancer.

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