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I dug into the question myself, and the modern definition of an organ is a small improvement on Broman’s: An organ is composed of two tissues, is self-contained and performs a specific function.
That still leaves a lot of wiggle room, and anatomists are taking it.
“How anyone would come up with 78 organs as a definite number is mystifying,” says Thomas Gest, a medical education professor at Texas Tech University.
He’s also an advisor for the Division of Gross Anatomy with the Federative International Programme for Anatomical Terminology (FIPAT).
“If a bone is an organ, there’s 206 organs right there.
“It’s pretty clear that an organ is any solid thing in the body that does something,” Broman concluded.
Coffey and colleagues, in their new study, clarified the anatomic understanding of the mesentery, suggesting that it is indeed a continuous, singular entity that spans the gastrointestinal tract.
But Coffey didn’t discover the mesentery, nor was he the first to describe its contiguous structure. In 1878, Carl Toldt echoed Da Vinci’s findings, which then were echoed by anatomist Edward Congdon in 1942 and again by Wylie J. But these findings were largely ignored in mainstream literature, and British surgeon Sir Frederick Treves’ description of a fragmented mesentery — from 1885 — enjoyed a long shelf life, but no longer.
Although it’s cited copiously on the web, I couldn’t trace it to its ultimate source.
Neumann and I had a laugh when he pointed out that the Wikipedia page, which states there are 79 organs — with the addition of the mesentery — goes on to list more than 79.
AI-driven semantic searches need to be trained with large, annotated datasets that describe what a thing is and how it’s related to other things.