New research indicates that the spleen may not be a useless "vestigial" organ after all.

Scientists have discovered that the spleen, long consigned to the B-list of abdominal organs and known as much for its metaphoric as its physiological value, plays a more important role in the body’s defense system than anyone suspected.

Reporting in the current issue of the journal Science, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School describe studies showing that the spleen is a reservoir for huge numbers of immune cells called monocytes, and that in the event of a serious trauma to the body like a heart attack, gashing wound or microbial invasion, the spleen will disgorge those monocyte multitudes into the bloodstream to tackle the crisis.

Wait a minute... we don't know everything yet?

That researchers are only now discovering a major feature of a rather large organ they have been studying for at least 2,000 years demonstrates yet again that there is nothing so foreign as the place we call home.

“Often, if you come across something in the body that seems like a big deal, you think, ‘Why didn’t anybody check this before?’ ” Dr. Nahrendorf said. “But the more you learn, the more you realize that we’re just scratching on the surface of life. We don’t know the whole story about anything.”

But if there's one thing we know without a shadow of a doubt it's that our magnificent bodies are the product of evolution.

Researchers cite other cases in which organs were presumed to be so dispensable that they could be removed “prophylactically” — often with unfortunate outcomes. In recent years, for example, many older women undergoing hysterectomies have been advised to have their healthy ovaries removed at the same time, the rationale being: if you are past your childbearing years, why hang on to reproductive organs that might turn cancerous and kill you? Yet follow-up surveys have shown that women who underwent elective ovariectomy had a heightened risk of dying during a given study period, were more susceptible to heart disease and lung cancer and were twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease compared with women who had kept their ovaries. “Evolution has an edge on us,” Dr. Nahrendorf said. “I would be very careful about saying, ‘You don’t need this organ, get rid of it.’ ”

Yes, our Creator -- the blind, random process of evolution -- has got us all beat.

(HT: Instapundit.)

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