One of the earliest descriptions of the mesentery was made by Leonardo da Vinci, and for centuries it was generally ignored as a type of insignificant attachment. Over the past century, doctors who studied the mesentery assumed it was a fragmented structure made of separate sections, which made it pretty unimportant.
But in 2012, Coffey and his colleagues showed through detailed microscopic examinations that the mesentery is actually a continuous structure.
“When we approach it like every other organ… we can categorise abdominal disease in terms of this organ,” said Coffey.
That means that medical students and researchers will now investigate what role – if any – the mesentery might play on abdominal diseases, and that understanding will hopefully lead to better outcomes for patients.
Systematic study of the mesentery is now possible because of clarification of its structure. Although this area of science is in an early phase, important advances have already been made and opportunities uncovered. For example, distinctive anatomical and functional features have been revealed that justify designation of the mesentery as an organ. Accordingly, the mesentery should be subjected to the same investigatory focus that is applied to other organs and systems. In this Review, we summarise the findings of scientific investigations of the mesentery so far and explore its role in human disease. We aim to provide a platform from which to direct future scientific investigation of the human mesentery in health and disease.